Colon & Rectal Conditions
Crohn's disease is a disorder that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The inflammation most frequently occurs in the ileum, the area bridging the small and large intestines, but can occur in any area of the GI tract, which stretches from the mouth to the anus. Crohn's disease is part of a group of chronic or recurring disorders that cause the digestive tract to become inflamed. This group of disorders is known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Causes of Crohn's Disease
The cause of Crohn's disease is not entirely known. It is believed that Crohn's disease is caused by numerous factors including:
- Family history
- Environmental factors, including smoking
- An impaired immune system
It is believed that people with Crohn's disease have abnormal immune system reactions that mistake food and bacteria for foreign substances. The immune system tries to attack these substances and leads to a build-up and therefore inflammation in the intestines. Crohn's disease may also enter the body as an infection.
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are diarrhea, which often occurs up to 10 or 20 times a day, and abdominal pain and cramping. Inflammation in the intestines causes an excess amount of water and salt to be produced. Since the colon cannot properly absorb this excess fluid, it empties often, resulting in frequent diarrhea and cramping. Crohn's disease symptoms may be experienced on a recurring basis or for irregular lengths of time.
Diagnosis of Crohn's Disease
For patients experiencing the symptoms of Crohn's disease, it is important to see the doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment. After a thorough medical examination, the doctor may perform a series of tests to confirm the presence of Crohn's disease.
Treatment of Crohn's Disease
Crohn's disease cannot be cured, but treatment of Crohn's disease is focused on minimizing the effect it may have on daily life. Once the diagnosis of Crohn's disease has been made, a treatment regimen will be determined based on the type and severity of symptoms.
Treatment of Crohn's disease often includes anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, biologic drugs and over-the-counter medicine. Surgery may be recommended for patients with more severe or unresponsive symptoms. Lifestyle changes, including a change in diet and regular exercise, can also help reduce the symptoms of Crohn's disease.
Crohn's disease is not fatal. It is, however, a serious condition that can take a toll on the body and mind. It is important to treat the symptoms of Crohn's disease as effectively as possible and retain a positive attitude to keep the disease from affecting daily life. With treatment, many people with Crohn's disease are able to function well and live a productive life.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the rectum and colon. It is part of a group of diseases known as inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the rectum and colon. The ulcers can flare up and cause painful symptoms which can eventually lead to colon cancer.
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
While ulcerative colitis usually begins between the ages of 15 and 30, many people over the age of 50 can also develop the disease. Thought to be an autoimmune disease, the cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, yet there is a tendency for patients with ulcerative colitis to have a close family relative with the same disease. Stress and other environmental factors may aggravate symptoms of ulcerative colitis, they are not the cause of the disease.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis occur in flare-ups that can be sudden and severe or begin gradually with mild symptoms. Depending on the severity of the inflammation, people may experience the disease differently. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pains
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding
Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis
Treatment for ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the disease, but can include drug therapy to induce and maintain remission. Many people with ulcerative colitis eventually need to have their colons removed due to excessive bleeding and a high risk of developing colon cancer.
Retrorectal tumors are lacerations that develop in the rectum, which is the lowest portion of the large intestine. These relatively rare tumors may develop in children, but are more commonly seen in adults. While difficult to diagnose, most retrorectal tumors are benign. However, evaluation of the tumor is important because malignant cases are not unusual.
Risk Factors for Retrorectal Tumors
Possible risk factors for retrorecal tumors include:
- Age 50 or older
- Family history of polyps
Symptoms of Retrorectal Tumors
Retrorectal tumors may be present for a long time before a patient exhibits any symptoms. In some cases, retrorectal tumors are diagnosed only when they are considerably large and cause severe pain. Symptoms vary based on the size and location of the mass but may include include:
- Urinary or bowel dysfunction
- Pain in the lower back
- Decreased brain, nerve or muscle function
Diagnosis of Retrorectal Tumors
In order to diagnose a retrorectal tumor, a series of tests will be performed. This may include the following:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
- Endorectal ultrasound (ERUS), a test that helps determine the status of a rectal tumor
Treatment for Retrorectal Tumors
Surgery is the primary form of treatment for retrorectal tumors. Surgical removal is almost always necessary in cases of both malignant and benign growths.
Prognosis of Retrorectal Tumors
For benign retrorectal tumors, the prognosis following surgery is excellent. Tumors may grow back in the future, and can again be surgically removed. The outcome of surgery for a malignant tumor, however, depends on the individual case.