BY FRANK CALIENDO M.D.
Ischemic colitis is a potentially painful condition that occurs as a result of decreased oxygen in the digestive system. This deprivation of oxygen is directly caused by reduced blood flow to the colon, often due to narrowed or blocked arteries. Fortunately, our doctors at the Colon and Rectal Surgical Specialists of New York in Long Island, NY are experienced in treating ischemic colitis symptoms, and can help you address your discomfort and regain your quality of life.
Symptoms of Ischemic Colitis
Unfortunately, ischemic colitis usually causes varying degrees of discomfort, and can occur gradually or rapidly. This condition can be indicated by:
- Abdominal pain, tenderness, or cramping
- Blood in your stool
- Passage of blood
- Nausea or vomiting
- Reoccurring need for a bowel movement
Typically, ischemic colitis causes pain and discomfort on the left side of the abdomen. Patients who experience symptoms on the right side of the abdomen are at higher risk of complications. Because the arteries that nourish the right side of the colon also nourish a portion of your small intestine, severe pain on the right side of your abdomen could indicate blockage of the small intestine as well. If blockage does indeed occur, it can lead to rapid necrosis (death) of the intestinal tissues. This condition will require surgery to clear the blocked intestine and remove its damaged portions.
Who Is at Risk for Developing Ischemic Colitis?
While patients of any age, gender, or ethnic background can develop ischemic colitis, it is most common in women over the age of 60. High cholesterol can also cause an increase in plaque buildup, leading to clogged arteries. Additionally, patients who have blood-clotting disorders or abnormalities may have a higher risk of developing ischemic colitis.
What Happens if Ischemic Colitis Is Left Untreated?
If left untreated, ischemic colitis can lead to several complications. These include:
- Obstruction of the bowels
- Persistent intestinal bleeding
- Perforation of the intestines
If treated appropriately, patients with ischemic colitis typically experience improvement within a few weeks. Patients who respond well to initial treatments are more likely to enjoy a positive long-term prognosis.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
If you experience severe abdominal pain, it is important to visit your local emergency room right away. By seeking immediate care, you can receive proper treatment and avoid any long-term, serious complications.
Some patients with ischemic colitis may experience only occasional, moderate abdominal pains. However, if these episodes are prolonged or occur with increased frequency, it is recommended that you make an appointment with one of our doctors.
Tips for Preventing Ischemic Colitis
While some patients are simply genetically predisposed to ischemic colitis, there are a few recommendations that can help prevent symptoms from occurring. Some of these suggestions include:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet
- Eliminating medications that could exacerbate ischemic colitis
- Exercising regularly
- Attending routine checkups
Contact Us to Learn More about Ischemic Colitis
If you suffer from intense abdominal pain, bleeding, or other unusual symptoms, schedule an appointment at the Colon and Rectal Surgical Specialists of New York. Our doctors can perform a thorough assessment and help determine a customized treatment plan to successfully meet your needs and alleviate your discomfort. To speak with a team member, you can call our office at (516) 217-8626 or contact us online anytime.