Understanding Ischemic Colitis

Ischemic Colitis is a condition that takes place whenever the blood flow to the colon, or large intestine, is cut back due to either blocked or narrowed arteries. Whenever the blood flow is diminished, there will be an insufficient amount of oxygen available for the cells within your digestive system which can cause pain and even begin to damage your colon. While Ischemic Colitis is a condition that can impact any portion of the colon, the majority of people will experience pain that stems from the left side of the abdomen.

A condition that is more prevalent in people who are older than the age of 60, this is a health issue that can very easily get confused with a variety of other digestive problems. While Ischemic Colitis might actually start to heal on its own, many people benefit from medication that will work to both treat and prevent infection. If at any time the condition worsens, your physician may schedule you for surgery to help repair any portion of the colon that has been damaged.

Ischemic Colitis Symptoms

  • Tenderness, cramping and/or pain in the abdomen that can either occur gradually or all of a sudden
  • Maroon or bright red color that appears in your stool or even alone with out any stool present
  • Urgency of bowel movement
  • Diarrhea

Whenever you notice symptoms, you should know that the risk of them becoming severe is much higher whenever they occur on the right side of the abdomen. The arteries that are located in the portion of the colon on the right are also those that feed your small intestine. If the blood flow ever becomes blocked on the right side of your colon, you will usually see that the blood flow becomes blocked to your small intestine as well. When you have this type of Ischemic Colitis, you will usually see that the pain is much more severe. If left untreated, this blocked blood flow can lead to a death of the intestinal tissue which is known as necrosis. At any time that this type of a condition occurs, you will have to have surgery in order to help remove the section of the intestine that is damaged and to clear the blockage.

Ischemic Colitis Causes

While the exact cause of a limited blood flow to the colon is not always cut and dry, there are several factors that have been known to heighten the risk of Ischemia colitis.

  • The formation of a blood clot in the artery that supplies the colon
  • Formation of fatty deposits along the walls of the artery, also called atherosclerosis
  • Blood pressure that is dangerously low, or hypotension. Can often be associated with major surgery, shock, trauma or heart failure.
  • Obstruction in the bowel that is caused by hernia, tumor or scar tissue.
  • Surgery that involves either the heart, blood vessels, gynecological systems or digestive systems
  • Any medical disorder that has a direct impact on the blood including sickle cell anemia or Lupus
  • Methamphetamine or cocaine use

Ischemic Colitis Treatment

While the treatment plans for Ischemic Colitis will vary depending on the severity or type of condition, the symptoms will usually begin to subside within three days for any mild case. Upon diagnosis, your physician may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • IV fluids to treat or prevent dehydration
  • Treatment of any sort of underlying condition that may be sparking the Ischemic Colitis or making the condition worse.
  • Avoiding drugs that tighten your bloodstream, like migraine drugs or some heart drugs

For severe ischemic colitis or if you colon is damaged, surgery might be needed:

  • Get rid of dead tissue
  • Repair a hole inside your colon
  • Bypass a blockage in an intestinal artery •
  • Take out area of the colon that has narrowed as a result of scarring, and is resulting in a clog

The probability of surgery might be greater for those who have a medical condition, such as heart related illnesses or low blood pressure.

Source – Mayo Clinic

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