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What Causes a Swollen Colon?

Inflammatory bowel diseases can cause a swollen colon.
Infections, blood flow problems and inflammatory bowel diseases can all lead to a swollen colon.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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A swollen colon can lead to a variety of bothersome symptoms and can have a variety of causes. A doctor may order a number of tests to determine the exact cause of the problem. Some possible causes of this condition include infection, blood flow problems, or natural disease processes affecting the colon. An introduction of chemicals into the colon, as in the case of an enema, may also lead to the swelling in the colon.

Infection is a common cause of a swollen colon. These infections can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or a parasite. Treatment differs according to the cause of the infection, but the swelling and inflammation typically subside once the infection has been properly treated. Common symptoms of a colon infection include diarrhea, which may or may not be bloody, and dehydration. If the dehydration becomes extreme, it may be necessary for the patient to be temporarily hospitalized.

Blood flow problems may sometimes lead to the development of a swollen colon. Ischemic colitis is a condition in which the arteries that supply the colon become narrowed, compromising blood flow. A condition known as a volvulus may also lead to blood flow problems as the colon becomes twisted. An incarcerated hernia is yet another medical condition that can lead to blood flow problems and swelling.

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Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease are known for causing a swollen colon. Inflammatory bowel disease is believed to be caused by autoimmune irregularities. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, spasms and cramping, and rectal bleeding. Dietary changes and the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications can help to control some of the symptoms, although there is no cure for this type of disease.

Other autoimmune disorders that may lead to the development of a swollen colon may include collagenous colitis or lymphocytic colitis. These conditions are relatively rare and seem to be most common among older women. The most common symptom of both of these conditions is watery diarrhea.

An introduction of chemicals into the colon can lead to swelling and irritation. This is one of the dangers of using an enema to induce a bowel movement. Occasional enema usage is less likely to have this effect than repetitive use. Chronic constipation should be treated by a doctor instead of self-medicating with an enema or other laxatives on a regular basis.

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