Causes and risk factors of colitis

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Medical researchers have not really been able to pinpoint the true cause of colitis; they have, however, five consensual theories about what causes it. These theories are:

1. Antibiotics – The 1950s saw the first use of antibiotics and likewise a sharp increase of colitis cases. One of the effects of antibiotics to the body is that they decrease the number of naturally occurring and beneficial bacteria living in the digestive system. With the decrease in these bacteria the inner lining of the colon starts to weaken. Worse, while antibiotics decrease the population of normal bacteria, it aids in the increase of other bacteria in the body one of which is the bacterium called Clostridium difficile. Clostridium difficile is one of the toxin-producing bacteria in the body that can result in the development of colitis. The major contribution of antibiotics for the development of colitis in a person may be the fact that they damage the intestine’s mucosal lining. This lining helps protect the gastrointestinal tract and so is a very important part of the digestive system. When this lining has been compromised, the digestive enzymes of the body help in further eroding it. The erosion of the lining then gives way to symptoms such as diarrhea, bowel urgency and bleeding.

2. Immune system – Researchers posit that an immune system that has been undermined by illness can result in the inflammation of the digestive system and thus colitis. Other researchers think that certain pathogens like Shigella, Salmonella, botulism, Listeria or E. Coli can also play a major role in colitis development.

Blood supply – Insufficient or restricted blood circulation to the colon can lead to the inflammation of the blood vessels. Medical conditions such as cholesterol, high blood pressure, infections, hernias or diabetes and even arterial narrowing due to aging can weaken blood flow to the colon.

Heredity – The Mayo Clinic have also indicated that heredity plays a major role in the development of colitis. Researchers at the clinic have claimed that gene mutations can be passed on that predisposes a person to colitis development. This assumption has not yet been validated since the genes referred to have not yet been identified. Still, statistics reveal about 15% of colitis cases have relatives who also suffer from certain types of irritable bowel diseases.
Stress – Stress may not be considered a direct cause of colitis but it can be one of the major causes for colitis flare ups. Most doctors consider stress as one of the triggers for colitis.

 Key words:  Colitis

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