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Is Colitis Contagious?

Reviewed on 12/17/2020

What Is Colitis?

There are some types of colitis that are contagious, and some that are not. Colon inflammation caused by infection by a virus or bacteria can be spread, but autoimmune conditions causing colitis are not transmissible.
There are some types of colitis that are contagious, and some that are not. Colon inflammation caused by infection by a virus or bacteria can be spread, but autoimmune conditions causing colitis are not transmissible.

Colitis is inflammation of the colon (large intestine). There are a number of different types and causes of colitis. 

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to three disorders associated with gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation:

What Are Symptoms of Colitis?

Symptoms of colitis can range from mild to severe and may include: 

What Causes Colitis?

There are a number of different causes of colitis: 

  • Abnormal immune response (in inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD)
    • Likely due to environmental and genetic factors
  • Infection
    • Bacteria and viruses are common causes of colitis in the U.S. 
    • Parasitic infections are common causes of colitis in developing countries 
  • Reduced blood flow to the intestines (ischemia)
  • Inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis)
  • Certain medications

Is Colitis Contagious?

There are some types of colitis that are contagious, and some that are not. The types of colitis that are contagious can be transmitted from person-to-person, usually from fecal/oral exposure (such as eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water). Other types may be spread by touching contaminated personal items such as toothbrushes, eating utensils, or clothing, and then touching your face without first washing your hands.

Types of colitis that are contagious include: 

How Is Colitis Diagnosed?

A doctor will obtain a medical history and do a physical exam. Diagnostic procedures and tests used to confirm colitis include: 

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What Is the Treatment for Colitis?

Colitis is treated with medications, diet, and in severe cases, surgery. 

Medications used to treat colitis include: 

Treatment of allergic colitis (usually occurs in infants) includes dietary changes:

In severe cases of ulcerative colitis, surgery may be indicated in cases of uncontrolled gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding, bowel perforation, bowel obstruction, failure to respond to medical therapy, and unacceptable medical toxicity: 

  • Bowel resection 
  • Strictureplasty
  • Total colectomy if the patient has toxic megacolon or acute fulminant colitis or in certain severe forms of the disease for which medical therapy (including rescue immunosuppressive agents such as infliximab) has failed

What Are Complications of Colitis?

Complications of ulcerative colitis include: 

  • Toxic megacolon with the risk of perforation 
  • Increased risk of colon cancer 
  • Bowel strictures 
  • Fistulas
  • Abscess
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Short bowel syndrome and malabsorption after surgery
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in colitis caused by enterohemorrhagic  E. coli (Ehec)

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Reviewed on 12/17/2020
References
https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/927845-overview

https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-ulcerative-colitis/medication
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