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What causes ischemic colitis?

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Quick Answer

Ischemic colitis occurs when there is a lack of blood flow to the colon, which causes cells in the digestive system to become deprived of oxygen, according to Mayo Clinic. This results in abdominal pain and colon damage.

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The reasons for reduced blood flow to the colon are not always obvious, however. Various factors contribute to the risk, such as an accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of an artery, a blood clot blocking blood supply to the colon, very low blood pressure, or bowel obstruction, says Mayo Clinic. Surgery, disorders that affect the blood, and cocaine or methamphetamine use can also be explanations. More rarely, colon cancer or the use of certain medications may also be the cause.

If a doctor suspects ischemic colitis in a patient, he may order tests such as a Doppler ultrasound, CT scan, mesenteric angiogram or blood tests to help with a diagnosis, according to Healthline. Mild cases of ischemic colitis are usually treated with antibiotics, a liquid diet, intravenous fluids and pain medication. Acute cases of ischemic colitis require urgent attention and may be treated with medications that dissolve blood clots or medications that dilate blood vessels. Otherwise, surgery may be necessary to remove the arterial blockage.

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