The colon, also called the large intestine, is a five-foot long tube that connects to the small intestine at one end and the rectum at the other end. The colon absorbs up to three pints of water a day plus nutrients, and consolidates waste products so they can be expelled in feces, the Cleveland Clinic explains. Many disease processes can affect the colon; symptoms vary depending on the problem.
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Abdominal pain occurs in many different types of colon disease, including colon cancer, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and Crohn’s disease. Abdominal pain can be crampy, achy or sharp, and can be intermittent or constant. Abdominal pain related to colon disease may come and go in waves and may be accompanied by bloating. Diverticulitis, where small pouches that form on the colon become inflamed or infected, causes pain mostly on the left side of the abdomen. Nausea and vomiting occur in gastrointestinal infections and diverticulitis. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can cause nutritional deficiencies and stunted growth and delayed sexual maturity in children with the diseases, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America states.
Most colon diseases cause changes in normal bowel habits; stools may become looser than normal and more frequent or less frequent, hard and difficult to pass. Colon cancer can cause narrower than normal stools. Ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and gastrointestinal infections generally cause diarrhea. Bleeding in the stools often occurs in cancer, but can also accompany ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and colon polyps. Bleeding in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s diseases can be severe enough to cause anemia, ColonSurgeryInfo.com states. Hemorrhoids can cause bleeding on the outside of the stool. Mucus can occur in the stool when a person has polyps, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, MayoClinic.com states.The consistency of the stool may change with colon cancer, and a person may feel like the bowel isn’t emptying completely, the same source states.
If a tear called a fistula develops in the rectum from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, pain when having a bowel movement or passage of pus may occur, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America states.
Some colon diseases, such as cancer, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease cause systemic symptoms. Weight loss and fatigue often accompany colon cancer, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. A person with Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis may also run a fever.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two types of chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract caused by an impaired immune response, are often grouped together and classified as inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. IBD can also cause joint, eye, skin and liver problems in addition to bowel symptoms, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America reports.