Collagenous Colitis and Lymphocytic Colitis

In the human body both collagen and lymphocytes are present, each sharing and performing different health functions. To comprehend the difference between Collagenous Colitis and Lymphocytic Colitis, the function of collagen and lymphocytes needs to be understood. There are different types of colitis, including autoimmune, idiopathic or microscopic, iatrogenic, vascular and infectious. Both collagenous and lymphocytic colitis are idiopathic or microscopic, meaning they have no specific identified cause.

Collagenous and lymphocytic healthy function

Collagen is a natural protein found in connective tissues, from the tops of our heads to the bottom of our toes. Connective tissues can be found in our skin, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, bone cartridge, cornea, digestive tract and spinal vertebrae and discs.

In contrast lymphocytes are types of white blood cells found in the human immune system, which come in three kinds: B cells, T cells and natural killer (NK) cells. These white blood cells are necessary to protect the body against viral infections and cancerous tumours. They are needed for immunity, to adapt immune response and to mediate for healthy cell function by producing antibodies to prevent harm caused by pathogens (infection-causing agents).

Collagenous and lymphocytic malfunction

Collagen is produced for connective tissue, which is made up of fibroblasts cells. When connective tissue is damaged fibroblasts are produced to replace damaged or dead tissue. However, excessive collagen production can lead to fibrosis or scar tissue. White blood cells, lymphocytes, form part of the red blood cell count, so either increases or decreases in white blood cell production and count may indicate a viral infection, such as leukaemia or HIV, potential immunodeficiency and cancerous growth like tumours and colorectal cancer.

Colitis and collagenous and lymphocytic function

Colitis is the inflammation of the large intestine, which includes the rectum, the colon and caecum. The term colitis can refer to disorders of the lower digestive tract. When any part of the large intestine becomes inflamed, the auto-immune response is for fibroblast cells (collagen) and white blood cell antibodies (lymphocytes) to increase in production and go to the inflamed site through the body's circulation.

What causes the inflammation will determine the degree of auto-immune response and the severity of symptoms. Research indicates that there is no specific identified cause for both lymphocytic and collagenous colitis.

Collagenous Colitis Symptoms and Treatment

Collagenous colitis is an inflammation related colon disease which is accompanied by watery diarrhoea in excess of nine times a day. Dehydration and weight loss are symptoms of collagenous colitis. In rare cases there is also rectal bleeding. Diagnosis is through colonoscopy and mucosal biopsy where the subepithelial collagen table is distinctively thicker than normal.

Three causes are considered and these include:

  • Having an over-active immune response, which causes the overproduction of collagen and fibroblasts and leads to an excess tissue build-up and potentially scarring.
  • Similar responses caused through chemicals, such as antidepressant, medications like Zoloft and statins, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like diclofenac.
  • Injury in the lower digestive tract region.
  • Smoking.

Studies suggest that the disease may not be curable, although the symptoms can be treated through:

  • Medications to prevent diarrhoea, such as 5-aminosalicylic acid and budesonide.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications like salicylates.
  • Bismuth like pepto-bismol.
  • Corticosteroids and mesalazines.
  • Immunosuppressants like azathioprine.
  • Dietary restrictions used in celiac disease management.
  • Probiotics.

Lymphocytic Colitis Symptoms and Treatment

Similarly lymphocytic colitis is an inflammatory colon disease with the same chronic watery diarrhoea, dehydration and weight loss symptoms. Lymphocytic colitis is also diagnosed through colonoscopy and mucosal biopsy, which is used to study the presence of excess lymphocytes in the connective tissue (collagen) and epithelium of the colon.

As with Collagenous Colitis the exact cause isn't clear, though the same factors are considered potentials in producing and over-active immune response. These include:

  • Abnormal immune function.
  • NSAIDs.
  • Antidepressants and other medications.
  • Injury in the lower digestive tract region.

Treatments may also include:

  • Medications to prevent diarrhoea, such as 5-aminosalicylic acid and budesonide.
  • Immune modulators and suppressants.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications like salicylates.
  • Bismuth like pepto-bismol.
  • Corticosteroids and mesalazines.
  • Probiotics.

Other Colitis Symptoms

All colitis conditions may include one or more of the following symptoms in addition to those already discussed:

  • Abdominal pain, cramping and bloating.
  • Urgency and excessive diarrhoea and/or urination.
  • Fatigue and fever.
  • Bleeding with watery diarrhoea.

Health implications of Collagenous and Lymphocytic Colitis

Research reveals a link between collagenous colitis and other diseases and syndromes, such as celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, other autoimmune disorders like thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lymphoma. Colitis conditions that have no specified cause can be a symptom of Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

If colitis becomes chronically worse patients can go into shock and require surgery. If left untreated the effects on overall health can be severe. Dehydration and weight loss can lead to malnutrition, immunodeficiency, bleeding in the digestive tract, pressure increases and organ malfunction. People with symptoms of colitis should seek advice and treatment as needed.

Prevention of Collagenous and Lymphocytic Colitis

With the current causes being idiopathic or microscopic, preventions are harder to identify. However, basic measures can be followed to help prevent and manage colitis conditions such as Collagenous and Lymphatic Colitis. These measures include:

  • Early intervention through medical advice if symptoms are experienced.
  • Having treatment for over-active immune response.
  • Avoiding excessive use of chemicals such as antidepressants, NSAIDs and other drugs.
  • Refraining from smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke.
  • Following a healthy diet and lifestyle.
  • Wearing protective clothing where necessary and taking care not to injure the lower digestive tract region.
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