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Cleveland Clinic Journal of MedicineMicroscopic Colitis: What is It, and What are the Treatment Options?

Intersections of Gut Health and Chronic Disorders: Unpacking the Origins and Implications of Microscopic Colitis

Microscopic colitis, a nuanced inflammatory bowel disease marked by chronic diarrhea, presents with subtleties that often elude standard diagnostic tools. As it requires histological confirmation via mucosal biopsy, understanding its pathogenesis, associated risk factors, and effective treatment protocols is critical for clinical management. This detailed review offers physicians a concise guide to the disease’s subtypes, diagnostic considerations, and therapeutic strategies, emphasizing evidence-based approaches to improve patient outcomes.

Key Points:

  • Diagnosis and Subtypes: Microscopic colitis is diagnosed through colonoscopy with mucosal biopsy, particularly necessary due to its invisible nature on routine imaging. The condition is categorized into two subtypes: collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis, distinguished by subepithelial collagen band development and intraepithelial lymphocytosis, respectively.
  • Clinical Presentation: Common symptoms include chronic, non-bloody, watery diarrhea, alongside urgency, abdominal pain, and weight loss, often mimicking other gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Risk Factors: The etiology of microscopic colitis is multifactorial, involving gut microbiota alterations, immune dysregulation, and genetic predispositions. Notably, certain medications such as proton pump inhibitors and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are linked to its development.
  • Treatment Strategy: The primary treatment for inducing and maintaining remission is budesonide, administered at 9 mg/day for an initial 8 weeks, with adjustments based on patient response. Discontinuation or reduction of symptom-associated medications is recommended.
  • Alternative Therapies: In cases where budesonide is unsuitable, alternatives like cholestyramine, loperamide, and bismuth salicylate are considered, though their efficacy varies. Emerging treatments include immunomodulators and biologic therapies.
  • Prognosis and Management: Effective management can lead to symptom relief and improved quality of life. However, the disease typically follows a chronic or relapsing course, with ongoing management tailored to individual response to therapy.
  • Safety Profile: Unlike other inflammatory bowel diseases, microscopic colitis does not increase the risk for colorectal cancer, allowing for long-term treatment focused on maintaining clinical remission.

HCN Medical Memo
Although microscopic colitis is challenging to detect through conventional imaging and endoscopy, targeted biopsies remain the definitive method for diagnosis, enabling effective, tailored therapeutic strategies.

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