Diarrhea, passing blood with or without stool, abdominal pain and cramping, and feeling an urgent need to move the bowels are common symptoms of ischemic colitis, according to Mayo Clinic. Pain located on the right side of the abdomen often indicates more severe complications.
Ischemic colitis is the result of insufficient blood flow to the large intestine that results in an inadequate oxygen supply to the digestive system's cells, explains Mayo Clinic. Blocked or narrowed arteries cause this diminished blood flow, resulting in pain and often damaging the colon. While most people experience pain in the left side of the abdomen, when pain occurs on the right, it typically indicates a blockage of the arteries supplying blood to the small intestine, causing more severe pain and the chance of necrosis, or death, of the intestinal tissue. Patients must undergo surgery to clear this life-threatening blockage and remove the damaged intestinal tissue.
Ischemic colitis, which most often occurs in individuals over age 60, usually resolves itself after a few days without intervention, notes Mayo Clinic. While the specific cause of reduced blood flow to the colon is not always evident, extremely low blood pressure, atherosclerosis, a blood clot, venous thrombosis, or a bowel obstruction caused by a hernia or tumor is often involved. Although rare, some medications can lead to ischemic colitis, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, estrogen and antibiotics.