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Colon Stricture: Causes, Treatments & How To Diagnose It In 2023
Our digestive tract is a mucous tubing that aids digestion and our bodies’ nutrition. To keep it at its best, we should eat plenty of probiotics, fiber and care for it in case of any problem. Today we’ll learn about colon stricture, meaning the narrowing of the large intestine. This condition is also called colon stenosis.
Such bottlenecks threaten your health, and you should get treatment upon detection of intestinal strictures. Still, what is a colon stricture, what causes it, how would you know you have one, and how do you treat it? This article will answer all these questions.
What Is A Colon Stricture?
A colon stricture occurs when part of the large intestines narrows. Some of the contributing factors are chronic inflammation, the development of scar tissue, or fibrotic changes. Additionally, it has been connected to types of inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
This constriction may cause intestinal blockage and limit the movement of fecal matter through the colon. This results in symptoms like cramping, bowel changes, and abdominal pain. Surgical methods or endoscopic balloon dilation may be used for an immediate diagnosis and appropriate treatments.
Colon Stricture Symptoms
A narrow colon doesn’t allow food to flow as it should. Hence, it gets trapped within your colon. These fibrotic strictures cause increased pressure on that segment which causes a painful sensation. Having a colonic stricture is a painful experience, and here are some of the intestinal stricture symptoms:
- Abdominal pain.
- Abdominal cramps.
- Changes in bowel movements: constipation or diarrhea.
- Bowel obstruction.
- Difficulty passing gas.
- Difficulty passing stool.
How To Diagnose Colon Stricture
Regarding conditions such as colon strictures, waiting until the last minute could become life-threatening. So much so, here are the major steps doctors take if they realize that you have all of the above symptoms:
Patient History And Medical Evaluation
When patients present with the above symptoms, healthcare providers run thorough medical evaluations for diagnosis. Firstly, they start by evaluating detailed patient history and carrying out a physical examination to eliminate contributing factors. These examinations are essential to identify the exact risk factor since intestinal strictures may occur due to several reasons.
One contributing factor they will evaluate is the history of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Lifestyle and current or previous infections are other possible factors.
After the physical exams, imaging is the next step.
Diagnostic imaging helps doctors confirm the presence of intestinal strictures. Imaging techniques like computed tomography and plain radiographs allow medical professionals to see the large intestine passage.
If there is a narrowing, the respective scans will show and identify the narrowed areas and highlight potential dangers. These imaging techniques also help doctors differentiate the cause of the colonic stricture, such as intestinal looping or tumors.
Biopsy And Laboratory Tests
After the scans have shown that your gastrointestinal, i.e., GI tract, is truly narrower, doctors do more confirmatory tests. A colonoscopy is one of those. Here, doctors perform a colonoscopy to extract a few cells of the affected area to examine it further.
During a colonoscopy, a doctor may take tissue samples or biopsies to assess the nature of the stricture. This test helps rule out other conditions, including colon cancer. Laboratory tests, such as blood work, can also aid in evaluating inflammation levels and ruling out other gastrointestinal disorders.
Causes Of Colon Stricture
Our digestive health depends on a few fundamental components: diet and lifestyle. You heal and nourish the body when you eat a healthy meal full of probiotic foods, fiber, nutrients, and digestive enzymes. A colon stricture cannot just happen; it has to have a cause. And now that you know what intestinal strictures are in the colon, here are some causes:
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
The chronic inflammation that results leads to the accumulation of scar tissue and fibrosis, narrowing the colon. Over time, this narrowing can block the normal passage of stool, causing symptoms and complications associated with bowel strictures.
Besides IBD, other factors that induce chronic inflammation in the colon can lead to strictures. These are infections, autoimmune disorders, untreated intestinal infections, and certain medications or toxins. Prolonged inflammation chips through the intestinal lining leading to scar tissue build-up, narrowing the colon.
Inflammation also results in altered absorption and metabolism of nutrients, leading to potential nutrient deficiency from the malabsorption.
The condition of intestinal fibrosis is the excessive accumulation of connective tissue in response to injury or inflammation in the large or small intestine. This accumulation results in the thickening of some intestinal segments. Fibrotic strictures narrow the intestinal tract, minimizing its ability to allow smooth stool passage. As fibrosis progresses, it can eventually lead to partial or complete blockage.
Complications From Diverticular Disease
Diverticular disease, which involves the formation of small pouches called diverticula in the colon or small intestine, can lead to inflammation and scarring. This disease causes intestinal diverticular stricture when the small pouches become inflamed or infected. Their swelling leads to blockage of the intestinal canal and a loss of the ability to have a normal bowel movement.
Other Contributing Factors
Certain risk factors may also increase the likelihood of developing colon strictures. The extra factors are personal or family history of colon cancer, post-abdominal surgery complications, smoking, hernias, intestinal looping, cancerous tumors, and untreated intestinal infections.
How To Treat Colon Stricture
How to heal intestinal stricture naturally depends on early detection of a bowel stricture. Early detection facilitates faster medication administration and remedies to halt the narrowing. If it’s a small colon stricture needing only diet changes, you may add gut-healing foods and even use digestive supplements.
The cases that require special treatments may utilize some of the following techniques:
Endoscopic Balloon Dilation
Endoscopic balloon dilation is a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which doctors use a specialized endoscope with an inflatable balloon. The doctors insert this device into the colon and inflate the balloon to stretch and widen the narrowed stricture in the colon. This procedure improves bowel function and relieves symptoms.
When you get severe strictures, you may require surgery. Surgical procedures aim to remove the colon part or create a bypass. During the bypass procedure, surgeons create a new alternative route for the stool to bypass the narrowed area. This helps restore normal bowel flow and alleviates obstruction.
Putting a stent in is an infrequent option. Or removing a benign or cancerous tumor is another surgical option.
Reducing disease inflammation caused by whatever source can help you manage colon strictures. This is especially important if yours is linked to inflammatory bowel diseases. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressants to control inflammation and prevent further stricture development.
A diverse healthcare team, including gastroenterologists, surgeons, and other specialists, may work together to develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Even the Colitis Foundation may offer tips and recipes to help treat strictures.
Collaborating with a registered dietitian to learn what foods to eat is a wise idea, as you do not want to eat foods that will further block a bowel movement and lead to a more severe stricture. Sticking to soft, pureed foods low in fiber and well-cooked meats and veggies are key to a healthy diet to treat strictures.
Regular Follow-Ups And Monitoring
Sometimes, even after initial treatment, new strictures may form on another part of the intestinal canal. For early detection, schedule follow-up appointments and monitoring sessions to help your doctors assess your gut health and the success of treatments.
These are the sessions where your caregiver may suggest diet modifications, consumption of superfoods, or other digestive health therapies.
Intestinal strictures are painful and have several contributing factors, like infection and diseases. Unfortunately, they can become fatal if you leave them untreated.
Luckily, there are numerous treatment options like medications or surgical interventions. The exact treatment technique may involve a collaborative force of healthcare providers to get you to excellent health. Still, even after the initial treatment, regular check-ups are advised.
Finally, since prevention is better than cure, regular screenings, a healthy diet, and moderate physical activity go a long way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Colon strictures are abnormal narrowing in the large intestine caused by inflammation and scar tissue build-up.
You must treat strictures. Left untreated, they can lead to complications like bowel obstruction, which may lead to death if the obstruction is complete.
While strictures cannot completely heal naturally, early intervention and appropriate treatment can effectively manage the condition and improve symptoms.
It’s advisable to avoid foods that are difficult to digest or may exacerbate symptoms. Such foods are high-fiber foods, seeds, nuts, and spicy foods.
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