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- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Ulcerative Colitis
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
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The colon, or large bowel, connects the small intestine to the rectum. The primary functions of the colon are absorption of water and salt and transport of fecal material to the rectum. Infection, inflammation and structural and functional abnormalities can cause different colon diseases. Physical examination and diagnostic testing help in determining the cause of colon-related symptoms, facilitating appropriate treatment.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Weakness in the colon wall frequently leads to formation of small, pouch-like outgrowths called diverticula. The presence of diverticula in the colon is termed diverticulosis, which typically occurs in older adults and usually does not cause symptoms. Accumulation of fecal material in the diverticula, however, may cause infection and inflammation, a condition known as diverticulitis. The disorder typically causes lower left abdominal pain, corresponding to the area of the colon where diverticula most frequently form.
Other symptoms may include fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea or constipation. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases notes that most attacks of diverticulitis clear with antibiotics and a short-term liquid diet. Complications of diverticulitis such as the development of a hole in the colon, intestinal blockage or abscess formation require aggressive treatment, which may include surgery. A high-fiber diet can help prevent recurrent attacks of diverticulitis.
- Weakness in the colon wall frequently leads to formation of small, pouch-like outgrowths called diverticula.
- The presence of diverticula in the colon is termed diverticulosis, which typically occurs in older adults and usually does not cause symptoms.
Chronic Colitis Symptoms
Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease, which most commonly affects young adults. Chronic inflammation in the colon and rectum leads to ulcer formation. Intestinal or rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and diarrhea are hallmark symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Anemia and weight loss commonly accompany abdominal signs and symptoms. Most people with ulcerative colitis experience periods of high-level disease activity, known as flares, interspersed with periods of minimal symptoms.
The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that anti-inflammatory medications and immunosuppressants are the primary forms of treatment for ulcerative colitis 2. Surgical removal of the colon eventually proves necessary in approximately 20 to 30 percent of ulcerative colitis patients.
- Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease, which most commonly affects young adults.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The Cleveland Clinic reports that irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common of all gastrointestinal disorders. Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder of the colon, meaning no structural, inflammatory or infectious abnormalities of the colon occur with the condition. Recurrent episodes of abdominal pain that subside with bowel movements are the hallmark symptom of irritable bowel syndrome. The disorder typically demonstrates diarrhea-predominant or constipation-predominant stool patterns.
The precise mechanisms that provoke irritable bowel syndrome symptoms remain an area of active medical research. Reduced consumption of gas-producing foods, increased fiber intake and use of anti-diarrheal agents or laxatives can help alleviate discomfort. Antidepressant medications and psychosocial interventions may be useful for people with irritable bowel syndrome and psychiatric illness or social stressors.
- The Cleveland Clinic reports that irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common of all gastrointestinal disorders.
- Recurrent episodes of abdominal pain that subside with bowel movements are the hallmark symptom of irritable bowel syndrome.
Chronic Colitis Symptoms
Metamucil & Diverticulitis
Causes of Pain in the Sigmoid Colon
Diverticulitis & Colonoscopy
What Is Erythematous Mucosa in the Rectum?
Causes of Intermittent Diarrhea & Gas
Can You Die From a Bowel Blockage?
What Are the Causes of Rectal Mucus?
Is It Okay to Eat Ground Flax Meal With Diverticulosis?
How Does Caffeine Affect the Bowels of a Person Who Has Acute Chronic Gastritis & Diverticulitis?
- Penn State College of Medicine Milton S. Hershey Medical Center: Diverticulitis
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ulcerative Colitis
- Loffeld RJ. "Long-term follow-up and development of diverticulitis in patients diagnosed with diverticulosis of the colon." Int J Colorectal Dis. 2016 Jan;31:15-17. doi: 10.1007/s00384-015-2397-2391
- Peery AF, Keku TO, Martin CF, et al. "Distribution and characteristics of colonic diverticula in a United States screening population." Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2016;7:980-985.
- Shahedi K, Fuller G, Bolus R, et al. "Long-term risk of acute diverticulitis among patients with incidental diverticulosis found during colonoscopy." Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2013;11(12):1609–1613. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2013.06.020.
- Strate LL, Liu YL, Aldoori WH, Giovannucci EL. "Physical activity decreases diverticular complications.” Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 May;104(5):1221-30. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2009.121.
- Strate LL, Liu YL, Huang ES, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT. "Use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs increases risk for diverticulitis and diverticular bleeding.” Gastroenterology. 2011 May;140:1427-1433. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.02.004.
Dr. St. John is a medical writer and editor with more than 15 years experience in the field. She is a former medical officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.