The colon is a very important organ that performs a very vital function in the human body. The colon is responsible for eliminating a large bulk of wastes formed from the digestive process, and is sort of the sewerage system in a person. It is thus important to maintain the health of the colon because improperly functioning bowels can cause disastrous problems in the body. Knowing about diseases that the colon may acquire can help in keeping one’s colon health in check.
Colon disease vary in their gravity, some may just be mild irritation while others can be a threat to life. The four most common kinds of colon disease include non-cancerous polyps, ulcerative colitis, diverticular disease and Crohn’s disease.
Colon polyps are basically abnormal growths of tissue that appear in the lining of the colon, protruding into intestine’s canal. While polyps are normally not serious, they can develop cancer cells later if not detected early. There are three subtypes of polyps and polyp-related diseases: ordinary polyps, familial adenomatous polposis, and Lynch Syndrome.
Ordinary polyps occur sporadically among people aged 40 to 60. These polyps may progress into cancer within ten years, and thus they are often removed with colonoscopy. Familial adenomatous polyposis or FAP is a hereditary disease that is characterized by the occurrence polyps in the colon by the hundreds or even thousands, with great chances of developing cancer and thus treatment entails removal of the colon. Lynch Syndrome is another hereditary condition that is more common than FAP, although less common than ordinary polyps, and unlike FAP, which occurs as early as age ten, Lynch Syndrome usually appears as late as the 40s or as early as the 20s.
Ulcerative colitis is characterized by the inflammation in the mucosa, the deepest lining of the colon or rectum. Ulcers or small open sores would form on the lining’s surface, producing blood, pus and mucus. Around 500,000 to about two million people in America suffer this disease and most of the patients are below the age 30.
Ulcerative Colitis usually manifests with abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, fevers, or weight loss. Patients who experience excessive bleeding may also develop anemia and malnutrition, especially for children. The symptoms of this disease can disappear and reappear within months or years.
Some people develop pockets in the walls of their colon, these pockets are called dierticula and their presence is what doctors refer to as diverticulosis while their inflammation is called diverticulitis. Complications can happen when infection reaches diverticula. The pockets may rupture causing bowel blockage or leaking of the bowel wall. Another great danger is the introduction of harmful bacteria causing abscesses and even small tears in the colon walls that could lead to life threatening abscesses in the abdomen.
Many people who have diverticular disease may not know about it because diverticulosis usually do not have symptoms. At most, people have mild cramps, constipation and bloating. Diverticulitis on the other hand manifests with abdominal pain, soreness around the lower left side of the abdomen, fever, vomiting, nausea, chills, and cramping. The gravity of these symptoms greatly depends on the extent of complications and infection.
Crohn’s disease, which is also known as enteritis or ileitis, is a digestive tract disease characterized by the chronic inflammation of the colon and other parts of the digestive tract. It affects about 500,000 to two million Americans and can recur over a patient’s lifetime. Oftentimes, Crohn’s Disease is hard to detect because it has similar symptoms to other colon disorders like ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
The usual symptoms of Crohn’s disease are abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, anal pain, bloating, anal drainage, rectal abscesses, joint pain, skin lesions and fissure. Some patients bleed to the extent of developing anemia. Crohn’s disease may stunt the growth and development of children due to the malabsorption of protein and other important nutrients.
Crohn’s disease may sometimes result into ulcers that could tunnel to surrounding tissues and areas such as the vagina, and bladder. Fistulas, or abnormal tunnels, may also result from Crohn’s disease.
Knowing about colon diseases is just a small part of keeping one’s digestive health on the right track. Regular checkups for colon disease or other illnesses are necessary to ensure good health and general well being.