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Microscopic Colitis


What is microscopic colitis?

Microscopic colitis is long-term inflammation of your colon (large intestine). With microscopic colitis, you may have damage to the lining of your colon that causes chronic diarrhea.

What increases my risk for microscopic colitis?

The cause of microscopic colitis is unknown. The following conditions may increase your risk:

  • Age and gender: Middle-aged women have an increased risk of microscopic colitis.
  • Increased bile acids: You may have more bile acids than normal. Bile acids help to digest food and fats.
  • Genetics: You are more likely to have microscopic colitis if you have a family member that has microscopic colitis or another disease of the colon.
  • Infections: You may have been exposed to bacteria that triggered inflammation or an infection in your colon.
  • Medicines: Certain medicines can increase your risk for microscopic colitis. These include medicine for pain, depression, seizures, stomach ulcers, or blood clots.
  • Problems with immune system: Your immune system may be decreased by certain health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, scleroderma, or asthma.

What are the signs and symptoms of microscopic colitis?

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of bowel movement control
  • Dehydration (dizziness, dry mouth, or passing little to no urine)

How is microscopic colitis diagnosed?

  • Blood tests: These tests may help find the cause of your microscopic colitis.
  • Bowel movement sample: A sample of your bowel movement is sent to a lab for tests. The tests may show what germ is causing your illness. This helps caregivers learn what medicine is best to treat you.
  • Abdominal x-rays: Abdominal x-rays are pictures of the organs inside your abdomen. Caregivers use these pictures to look for problems such as blocked or ruptured intestines, kidney stones, or solid masses (tumors) in your organs.
  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is a procedure to examine the inside of your colon using a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end. During a colonoscopy, caregivers may remove a small amount of tissue from the colon for a biopsy.

How is microscopic colitis treated?

  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics: This medicine helps fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Take them as directed.
    • Antidiarrhea medicine: This medicine treats or prevents diarrhea.
    • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.
    • Bile binders: These help to bind the bile acids and reduce irritation to the lining of your colon.
    • Immunosuppressants: This medicine helps control your immune system and decrease the swelling.
  • Surgery: If your symptoms do not improve, you may need to have surgery to remove a part of your colon.

What are the risks of microscopic colitis?

Surgery to remove a part of your colon may increase your risk of infection or bleeding. If not treated, microscopic colitis may interfere with your daily activities. Diarrhea may cause dehydration and can be life-threatening.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Avoid foods, drinks, or medicines that make your symptoms worse: You may need to avoid caffeine, chocolate, peppermint, and foods high in fat. Talk to your caregiver about medicine that may make your symptoms worse.
  • Drink liquids as directed: Adults should drink between 9 and 13 eight-ounce cups of liquid every day. Ask what amount is best for you. Drink more if you are outdoors or exercising for long periods. This will help prevent dehydration. For most people, good liquids to drink are water, juice, and milk.
  • Get plenty of rest: Rest when you feel it is needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Ask about probiotics: You may need supplements that help balance the bacteria in your colon. This will help decrease you symptoms.

Where can I find more information?

  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)
    2 Information Way
    Bethesda , MD 20892-3570
    Phone: 1- 800 - 891-5389
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You are losing weight without trying.
  • You have a fever, chills, cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • Your diarrhea gets worse.
  • Your symptoms do not improve or get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have difficulty breathing.
  • You have a fever with abdominal pain that does not go away.
  • Your abdomen feels swollen or hard.
  • You have black or bright red stools.
  • You have blood in your vomit.
  • You have any of the following signs of dehydration:
    • Dizziness or weakness
    • Dry mouth, cracked lips, or severe thirst
    • Fast heartbeat or breathing
    • Passing little to no urine

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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