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Distended colon: what is it, causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The digestive system is made up of a series of organs that work together in order to digest the food eaten, as well as to facilitate the absorption of the essential nutrients from said foods. The digestion of food begins the moment food is chewed in the mouth, the chewed food travels from the esophagus to the stomach and then passes into the intestines to follow this process.

Once food reaches the colon or large intestine, water and nutrients are extracted and absorbed by the walls of this organ. The colon also carries out the vital function of eliminating toxins. Due to the importance of its functions, problems can arise quickly if it does not work well. Inflammatory bowel disease or gastrointestinal motility disorders are some of the medical conditions that can cause other secondary problems, such as the well-known distended colon. In this FastlyHealarticle we tell you the details about a distended colon: what it is, causes and treatment .

What is a distended colon

The distended colon is the name given to the condition that occurs when this part of the digestive system, which connects the intestines and the rectum, increases in size. Therefore, this condition, which is also called megacolon , is characterized by enlargement or widening of the colon. In most cases it causes pain and general discomfort, so it is easy to end up going to the doctor thinking that we have a simple problem, such as the onset of gastroenteritis.

Causes of distended colon

Among the most common causes of a distended colon are the following:

  • Intestinal pseudo-obstruction: This is a condition in which the intestine may not be able to push partially digested food, gas, or waste further down the gastrointestinal tract. Incomplete bowel evacuation certainly explains the relationship between a distended colon and constipation.
  • Bad eating habits: not balancing well the nutrients that are ingested, such as taking excess fiber or none at all or eating things that produce a lot of gas, is one of the main problems that this disease occurs.
  • Genetics: there are people who may be genetically predisposed to intestinal pseudo-obstruction and, therefore, have an easier time suffering from a distended colon.
  • Other diseases: the incidence rate of this disease is higher in people who are diagnosed with Parkinson ‘s disease , the Kawasaki disease , Hirschsprung’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Medications: Some medications can have the effect of slowing down the bowel movement and therefore causing motility to decline to the point where constipation and problems such as large bowel distention develop.
  • Infections in the colon: Another possibility is that a bacterial infection occurs in the large intestine and that it produces, among other things, inflammation and enlargement of this part of the digestive system.

Symptoms of a distended colon

On the other hand, it is convenient to know what the symptoms of a distended colon are to be able to identify that something is not going well and to be able to go to the doctor. These are the main ones:

  • The constipation.
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Tenderness and pain to the touch and palpation of the abdominal area.
  • Blood in the stool.
  • General malaise.

If several of these symptoms appear and, above all, when we have abdominal inflammation or enlargement for several hours, even days, and if there is pain, it is vital to go to the doctor as soon as possible.

Treatment of distended colon

The doctor may perform physical palpation tests, blood tests, stool tests, urinalysis, and other tests such as X-rays, ultrasound, or a colonoscopy . Once you can diagnose the problem and find the cause of it, you can focus the treatment for the distention of the colon so that it is as effective as possible.

Thus, it is usual that as part of the treatment changes in the type of diet are needed, but you can also prescribe medications to treat an underlying disease if there is one. If the problem is the lack of intestinal motility, it will be necessary to take measures against constipation and to activate the intestinal function. Instead, there are some of the diseases that can only be treated with surgery, such as Hirschsprung’s disease. Also, in most cases the doctor will recommend rest for several days.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Distended Colon: what it is, causes and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Digestive System category .

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