Collagenous Colitis | Digestive Health | Loyola Medicine

Collagenous Colitis

Overview and Facts about Collagenous Colitis

Collagenous colitis is a type of microscopic colitis in which a thick layer of collagen develops inside the colon. Collagen is a non-elastic structural protein that can cause inflammation and discomfort when it grows in the colon. The term “microscopic” appears in the name of the condition because examining colon cells under a microscope is one of the only ways to identify this type of colitis.

Collagenous colitis is rare, affecting only 42 out of 100,000 people.

Signs and Symptoms of Collagenous Colitis

Symptoms of collagenous colitis often disappear and reappear, making you question your digestive health. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you may have this condition:

  • Nausea
  • Chronic watery diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Inability to hold in your feces

Because these symptoms closely mimic those of irritable bowel syndrome, many people receive the wrong diagnosis at first.

Causes and Risk Factors of Collagenous Colitis

Scientists are uncertain of the exact cause of collagenous colitis. However, they do know that it is not contagious. Some factors that may contribute to the development of the disease include:

  • Certain viruses and bacteria that irritate and inflame the colon
  • Autoimmune disorders that cause the body to attack the colon
  • Certain medications that cause irritation in the colon

Collagenous colitis is most common in people ages 50 to 70 and occurs more frequently in women.

Tests and Diagnosis of Collagenous Colitis

To diagnose collagenous colitis, your doctor will take a biopsy during a colonoscopy and then examine this tissue under a microscope. If they see the telltale collagen tissue, they can confirm a diagnosis of collagenous colitis.

Your doctor may also use other tests to rule out similar conditions. These might include a stool sample analysis, upper endoscopy, or blood test.

Treatment and Care for Collagenous Colitis

In many cases, collagenous colitis can heal on its own. To help your body recover, your doctor will help you develop a nutritional plan that includes low-fat and low-fiber foods. You should also avoid dairy, gluten, sugar, and caffeine.

Certain medications can also help your collagenous colitis heal. These might include:

  • Steroids
  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • Immune suppression medication
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Medication to block bile acids

Surgery occurs as a last resort when symptoms don’t go away. You may have a colectomy to remove the part of the colon that has collagenous colitis.