Also referred to as the colon, the large intestine is that part of the gastrointestinal tract that absorbs water from the indigestible food residue and stores the waste material till it is expelled from the body. This HealthHearty write-up provides information on the medical conditions that can affect the large intestine.
A vital part of the digestive system, the large intestine is about 5 feet long and 3 inches wide. It performs the function of eliminating waste material from the body. It consists of cecum, colon, and the rectum. Cecum is a tube-like structure into which the ileum (the part of the small intestine that is located between the jejunum and the cecum) opens, and from which the large intestine begins. So, the large bowel extends from the ileocecal junction to the anus. The colon is further divided into four sections: ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, and the sigmoid colon. The rectum is the terminal section of the large intestine. If any of the sections of the colon get damaged or inflamed due to trauma or infections, it can give rise to health problems. Information about some of the common conditions that affect the colon is given in the following sections.
Diseases of the Large Intestine
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that can occur anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is still unknown, but it is believed that it might be associated with genetic factors, environmental factors, or an abnormal immune response. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain and cramping, ulcers on the surface of the intestine, anal fissures, etc.
This condition is characterized by the formation of one or more pockets or pouches in the wall of the intestine. The pouch is referred to as a diverticulum. These sacs can form anywhere along the digestive tract, but the large intestine is more susceptible. When the pouch gets inflamed, the condition is referred to as diverticulitis. There are quite a number of theories about the cause of diverticular disease. It is believed that straining during bowel movements can cause the formation of such pouches. If these pouches get blocked with waste, bacteria might multiply in the sacs, thereby causing an infection. If the narrow opening of a diverticulum gets obstructed, it could restrict the blood supply, thereby leading to inflammation. Under such circumstances, one is likely to experience symptoms such as abdominal cramping and pain in the lower left quadrant of the abdomen, change in bowel habits, bloating, rectal bleeding, etc.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Individuals affected by IBS have a sensitive intestine. The muscles of the intestine contract in an abnormal manner, thereby resulting in cramping of the large intestine. Due to the abnormal contractions, food does not move along the tract easily. Food, stress, hormonal imbalance, use of certain drugs, and other conditions of the tract can also cause this problem. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include bloating, mucus in stool, change in bowel habits, pain in the lower abdominal region, excess gas, etc.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that is characterized by the formation of ulcers and inflammation of the colon. It usually affects the signoid colon and the rectum. The exact cause of this condition is not known. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis include abdominal pain, blood in stool, fatigue, weight loss, fever, rectal pain, diarrhea (with blood or pus), etc.
Besides these conditions, the large intestine could also get affected by colorectal polyps (abnormal growth of tissue projecting from the lining of the colon or rectum) or colon cancer (development of a malignant growth or tumor due to abnormal or uncontrollable division of cells in the colon). While drug therapy might help in alleviating the symptoms in most of the conditions, following a healthy diet is also essential. Medical help must be help by anyone who has been experiencing the aforementioned symptoms. If diagnosed at an early stages, these medical conditions can be treated effectively.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.