Colitis (cont.)

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Ischemic colitis

The colon can be thought of as a hollow muscle. It requires a normal blood supply to deliver oxygen and nutrients for the muscle to function normally. When the colon loses its supply of blood and becomes ischemic (isch= restricted + emia=blood supply), it may become inflamed. Ischemia or lack of blood supply causes inflammation of the colon leading to pain, fever, and diarrhea (bowel movements may contain blood).

  • As a person ages, the arteries that supply blood to the colon gradually narrow and can cause ischemic colitis. Risk factors for narrowed arteries are the same as atherosclerotic heart disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD), and include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
  • Ischemia may be caused by low blood pressure or anemia (low red blood cell count), which can decrease oxygen delivery to the colon.
  • The blood supply to the colon may be compromised when blood vessels are mechanically obstructed, for example by a twisting of the bowel (volvulus) or a herniation of the colon through openings in the abdomen wall (an incarcerated hernia).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/5/2013

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