What is indeterminate colitis?

Updated February 21, 2017

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a broad term under which fall conditions that cause the tissues of the intestines to become inflamed and swollen. Two conditions associated with IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). When a patient exhibits characteristics and symptoms of both, a diagnosis of indeterminate colitis is given.

Crohn's Versus UC

Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation in any part of the gastrointestinal tract but is most often seen in the lower part of the small intestine, called the ileum. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulceration of the lining of the large intestine.


Although the exact cause of IBD, including indeterminate colitis, is not known, the body’s immune system is thought to play a significant role. For some reason, the cells responsible for attacking and eliminating foreign substances from the body attack the healthy tissues of the intestines instead.


The symptoms of ulcerative colitis that may occur in indeterminate colitis include diarrhoea, bloody stools, lower left side abdominal pain and fatigue. Ulcers in the rectum are common. Crohn's disease symptoms include diarrhoea,fever and lower right side abdominal pain. Mouth ulcers may be present. Both types of IBD can cause loss of appetite and weight loss.

Disease Incidence

According to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, IBD is the most common gastrointestinal disorder of children and young adults. Most patients develop the disease between the ages of 10 and 30. Males and females are affected equally. Incidence of the disease is higher in individuals of Jewish descent and those who have a family history of the disease.


Although there is no medical cure for IBD, the diseases can be controlled through the use medications that suppress the immune system, such as prednisone. Surgery is considered when medications fail to adequately control inflammation.

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About the Author

Cynthia Ruscitto has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has appeared on numerous health and anti-aging websites and blogs, such as WorldHealth, a site representing the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Ruscitto holds a Bachelor of Science in medical technology, and is a former clinical microbiologist and certified secondary education science teacher.