Ischemic colitis is a colon condition that occurs when a section of the colon is not getting the blood supply it needs. As a result, it grows larger than it should and becomes inflamed. It is called ischemic colitis because the word ischemia is a medical term that's used when there's a blockage in a blood vessel. The word ischemia is also used to describe coronary arteries when blood flow around the heart is obstructed by plaque. This, of course, is the main reason for a heart attack.
Ischemic colitis generally occurs on the left side of the colon, but blockages may occur anywhere. Happily, it is often mild and goes away in a few days, whether it is treated or not. Chronic cases are possible, however. Sometimes the condition becomes so severe that permanent damage to the colon can result.
Ischemic colitis happens for several reasons. Colon cancer is the most serious of these. Atherosclerosis is another. Atherosclerosis is a build up of fatty deposits on blood vessel walls. Blood therefore has less room to flow to organs and tissues, which can lead to cell death and tissue destruction. Atherosclerosis is often the cause of chronic ischemic colitis. Blood clots account for some cases too.
Ischemic colitis can take place in conjunction with several other disorders, including hernia and diabetes. Certain medications can also trigger the condition, but this is rare. When it does happen, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), estrogen replacement medications, and migraine relievers are generally the cause. Anti-psychotic medications and blood pressure medications are other possibilities.
Abdominal surgery sometimes results in temporary ischemic colitis, as do infections involving certain kinds of bacteria.
The most frequent - and obvious - symptom is abdominal pain that can appear either gradually or suddenly. Pain in the upper abdomen after a meal could be a symptom of gallbladder problems, but it could also be ischemic colitis. Abdominal discomfort is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and a slight fever. Some symptoms are downright unpleasant and can certainly be disconcerting or even frightening. These symptoms include diarrhea and a frequent, powerful urge to move your bowels. Blood often appears in the stool, and individuals with this disorder may even pass blood without stools.
As mentioned above, pain and discomfort usually occur on the left side of the colon. If you start feeling discomfort on the right side, it could mean there's a blockage in blood flow to the intestines. Such blockages can be serious and should not be taken lightly due to the possibility of tissue death. This can cause a medical emergency that requires surgery, making it important to get to a doctor right away.