Microscopic colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes persistent, watery diarrhea. The disorder gets its name because it is necessary to examine colon tissue under a microscope to identify the condition accurately. The symptoms come and go frequently. If symptoms do not resolve on their own, our doctors offer a number of effective medications, as well as surgery if necessary.

Symptoms of Microscopic Colitis

  • Chronic watery diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea

If you have watery diarrhea that lasts more than a few days, contact your doctor so that your condition can be diagnosed and properly treated.

Diagnosing Microscopic Colitis

Patients come to Penn State IBD Center with a variety of confusing and uncomfortable symptoms. Through careful examination using the latest technology, our doctors aim to make a precise diagnosis and pinpoint the location of your inflammation. It is important to clearly diagnose your condition, so that we can develop a personalized treatment plan.

If you have symptoms of this type of colitis, our doctors may need to retrieve a tissue sample from your colon to examine under a microscope. We take this sample during a colonoscopy, a procedure that uses a long, thin tube with a camera to examine the large intestine (colon). Your doctor will also ask about any medications you take, particularly aspirin and ibuprofen, which may increase your risk of developing this type of colitis.

To rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome, our doctors may conduct one or more of the following tests:

Treatment for Microscopic Colitis

Microscopic colitis may get better on its own without treatment. If symptoms persist or are severe, treatment may be necessary to relieve them. Our team of expert doctors specializing in IBD will try a customized, step-by-step approach to treatment.

Treatment usually begins with:

  • Changes to your diet: Learn more about our nutrition management program.
  • Drug therapy, such as medications that block bile acids, steroids, or anti-inflammatory medications. These may help stop the persistent diarrhea.

When the symptoms of microscopic colitis are severe and medications aren't effective, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove all or part of your colon. However, surgery is a very rare treatment for this type of colitis.