Lymphocytic colitis is a disease that causes a person's colon to become inflamed. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but it does not increase a person's risk for colon cancer. Chronic watery diarrhea is the primary symptom. Dietary and lifestyle changes aimed at improving diarrhea are usually the first line of treatment.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a general name for diseases that cause inflammation in the intestines. Lymphocytic colitis is a type of bowel inflammation that affects the colon (large intestine). It is not related to Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, which are more severe forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Also, lymphocytic colitis does not increase the risk of colon cancer.
Both collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis are referred to as microscopic colitis because colonoscopy usually shows no signs of inflammation on the surface of the colon. Instead, tissue samples from the colon must be examined under a microscope to make the diagnosis.
No precise cause of lymphocytic colitis has been found. Possible causes of damage to the colon lining include:
- Bacteria and their toxins
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Some researchers have suggested that lymphocytic colitis may result from an autoimmune response, meaning that the body's immune system is destroying cells for no apparent reason.
Symptoms of lymphocytic colitis are similar to those of collagenous colitis -- mainly chronic watery, non-bloody diarrhea. The diarrhea may be continuous or episodic. Abdominal pain (stomach pain) or cramps may also be present.