Bowel diseases refer to a variety of diseases and disorders in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common are ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, megacolon and ischemia. These diseases may present similar symptoms and may be present at the same time. The following are the descriptions of these bowel diseases.

Bowel disease #1: Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is the inflammation of the lining of the colon. On more severe cases, numerous, shallow ulcers develop. This results to abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea and bleeding. There are also severe cases where polyps develop in the intestine. When this happens, the polyp must be checked for pre-cancer cells since patients with ulcerative colitis have greater risk for colon cancer. The inflammation and constant scarring make the cells in the intestine generate faster making them more susceptible to mutation. It is advised that people who had ulcerative colitis to be monitored for cancer for 8 to 10 years after diagnosis.

Bowel disease #2: Crohn’s Disease

Like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is also a type of inflammatory disease. The difference is that Crohn’s disease affects anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. Complications of Crohn’s disease include appearance of deep ulcers, acute and sporadic bleeding, and the appearance of strictures, fissures and fistulas. Small intestine bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) may also arise as a complication of Crohn’s disease. SIBO is a condition in which there is an abnormally high number of bacteria in the small intestine, most of them coming from the large intestine. Like ulcerative colitis, patients with Crohn’s disease also experience abdominal pain/cramps and diarrhea. Weight loss, anemia and malnutrition caused by malabsorption of nutrients are also symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Bowel disease #3: Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a function disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. The nerves of the gastrointestinal tract are dysfunctional, resulting to dysfunctional muscles and organs. Actually, the main cause and mechanism of this disorder remain unclear. Thus, its system of treatment also remains unknown. What currently serves as treatment are the alleviation of its symptoms. Its symptoms are alternating bouts of diarrhea, constipation, presence of mucus in the stool, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Bowel disease #4: Megacolon

Megacolon is a motolity disorder when the colon becomes so dilated that it cannot contract properly anymore. The dilation is due to the inflammation of the colon. The colon can no longer transport the gas and its other contents so pressure builds up in the colon resulting to abdominal pain. The inflammation may also become so severe that the colonic wall ruptures or perforates. This is a serious condition since bacteria coming from the colon may leak into the blood stream or may inflame the abdominal cavity. These two conditions could be fatal. Megacolon could be observed in ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, ameobiasis and dysentery.

Bowel disease #5: Ischemia

Ischemia is caused by the interruption or reduction of blood supply in the intestine. The severity of the condition depends of the type of vessel involved, the extent of interruption and the rapidity of the process. A type of ischemia called ischemic colitis is common in the elderly, usually due to the presence already of other vascular diseases.

Bowel diseases maybe acquired through lifestyle habits, as complication of other diseases or a genetic predisposition to the diseases. Endoscopy, capsule enteroscopy, barium enema, computerized topography and blood test are some of the methods used to diagnose these diseases. The treatments range from simply taking drugs to surgery where the affected area is removed. Nevertheless, prevention is still the best option. It only basically takes a healthy lifestyle to avoid these diseases.