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What is ischemic colitis?

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Quick Answer

Ischemic colitis is a condition in which narrow or blocked arteries restrict blood flow to an area of the colon, according to Mayo Clinic. As a result, the amount of oxygen that reaches the cells in the digestive tract is insufficient, which can damage the large intestine and cause pain.

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Full Answer

Some cases of ischemic colitis are not diagnosed correctly because the condition is easy to mistake for other digestive issues. Symptoms include pain in the abdominal area, usually on the left side, and bloody stools. Diarrhea and the urgent feeling of needing a bowel movement may also occur, states Mayo Clinic.

Pain on the right side of the abdomen may indicate a more serious condition because the blood flow to the small intestine may also be compromised, according to Mayo Clinic. This can cause intense pain and lead to the demise of tissue, which can be life-threatening. If this is the case, surgery is required to clear artery blockage and remove the damaged part of the intestine. If ischemic colitis is not severe, it could clear up on its own.

Narrowing of the arteries is normal as a person ages, according to MedicineNet. Other factors that facilitate narrow or blocked arteries, putting an individual at risk of developing ischemic colitis, include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

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