According to Healthline, a perforated colon can be caused by conditions that include diverticulitis, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, as well as injuries, such as blunt force traumas and puncture wounds. Other causes more common in the elderly include medications that include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids. A perforated colon must be diagnosed and treated quickly.
Healthline warns that it is important to watch for the potential symptoms of a perforated colon, particularly if a person has an underlying bowel condition. These include severe belly pain, chills, fever, nausea and vomiting. If any bowel contents leak into the abdominal cavity, this results in a condition called peritonitis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the abdominal cavity. This condition causes distension of the abdomen and tenderness to the touch. Other symptoms of peritonitis include fatigue, diminished elimination of wastes, shortness of breath and an increased heart rate.
According to Healthline, diagnosis of a perforated colon typically involves X-rays to look for air in the abdomen and chest, as well as CT scans to find the hole in the colon. Blood tests for elevated white blood cell count are also performed. Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment involves surgery to repair or remove the injured section of the colon and remove any material that has leaked into the abdominal cavity.