As someone concerned about his or her health, you need to be aware of the various types of bowel problems you may encounter. Knowing about these colon problems and their symptoms is the first step toward receiving proper treatment.
One of the most common forms of bowel problems is the colon polyp. While colon polyps are usually benign (non-cancerous), they can sometimes be a sign of colon cancer. Unlike many other bowel problems, colon polyps do not present symptoms and are usually diagnosed after a routine examination. Since the risk of developing colon polyps increases after age 50, it’s a good idea to have regular exams for polyps after this point. This is particularly true if you have a relative that has experienced colon cancer or if you have a history of colon polyps in your family.
Colon polyps, whether cancerous or not, are usually easy to remove with a colonoscopy. In cases where the colon polyps are exceptionally large, however, it may be necessary to perform surgery in order to remove the polyps.
Diverticulosis is a condition characterized by weakened muscles in the colon, caused by the mucosa lining not receiving enough blood from the arterioles. As a result, the mucosa “outpockets” into the colon wall. In about 80% of the cases, diverticulosis does not cause a problem. In the other 20% of patients, however, bleeding, pain, and inflammation may occur.
Crohn’s Disease is another of the most common colon problems. When a person suffers from Crohn’s Disease, the colon’s lumen is too narrow. As a result, the digestive tract is chronically inflamed. Although Crohn’s Disease most commonly affects the last portion of the small intestine or the colon, it can affect any part of the digestive tract.
Despite the fact Crohn’s Disease affects anywhere from 500,000 to two million people in the United States alone, it is difficult to diagnose. This is because its symptoms are similar to other bowel problems, including ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. These symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramping, weight loss, anal pain, bloating, rectal abscess, skin lesions, joint pain, and fissures. Excessive bleeding may also occur, which can lead to anemia.
Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammation of the innermost lining of the rectum and colon. Like Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis affects between 500,000 and two million people in the United States. Unlike many other digestive disorders, however, ulcerative colitis affects primarily those under the age of 30.
A person suffering from Ulcerative Colitis may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, or fevers. These symptoms result from the tiny ulcers, which bleed and produce pus, that develop on the surface of the rectum and colon lining.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is also referred to spastic colon, is another of the most common colon problems affecting individuals in the United States. Individuals with this disorder may experience bouts of constipation or diarrhea, or they may experience it as an ongoing condition. They may also suffer from abdominal cramps, fever, and nausea. For many individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, dietary changes can successfully reduce or even eliminate the symptoms. Although the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, most researchers believe the nerves of those suffering from the condition are overly sensitive in the colon.
Diabetes Vasculopathy in the Rectum
A person with diabetes may also experience colon problems, most commonly diabetic vasculopathy in the rectum. This condition is caused by damage to the blood vessels brought about by the diabetes. This condition can often be recognized during an eye exam due to noticeable changes in the eyes’ vascular quality.
Diverticular disease is one of the more common colon problems in Americans between the ages of 60 and 80, affecting about 50% of those within this bracket. Diverticular disease is usually characterized by pockets within the colon wall becoming inflamed. Individuals suffering from diverticular disease often experience additional complications such as abdominal pain, particularly in the lower left abdominal area, cramps, diarrhea, and sometimes rectal bleeding. The disease is thought to be caused by following a low-fiber diet, which increases the amount of pressure placed on the colon and its pockets.