Described by Medline Plus, the large intestine is composed of five segments: the cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and the sigmoid colon. The primary function of the large intestine is to absorb the remaining water from the stool before elimination. Digested food first travels through the small intestine and then into the cecum of the large intestine by way of the iliocecal valve. Diseases can develop in the cecum, in addition to all segments of the large intestine.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the intestinal tract. The disease can target specific areas and present in patches surrounded by normal tissue. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloody or watery diarrhea, fever and decreased appetite. Symptoms may come and go and the disease may be active or in remission. The exact cause is not known, but researchers suspect a genetic link to a faulty immune system triggered by bacteria or a virus. A highly processed diet laden with saturated fat may also contribute, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease characterized by inflammation of the inner lining of the intestines. The disease usually starts in the rectum and sigmoid colon and ascends toward the cecum; it rarely affects the small intestine. Predominant symptoms include severe diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, malnutrition, abdominal pain and anemia. As the intestinal tissue begins to die, ulcers form that produce pus and mucus that cause bloody stool. The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but one theory is that bacteria or a virus affects the immune system.
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, the intestine can develop pouches called diverticula. The presence of many diverticula is called diverticulosis. Diverticula can become inflamed if food particles become trapped and decay, a condition called diverticulitis. Sudden abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills characterize diverticulitis. Complications include bleeding, infections, intestinal lining tears and colon blockages.
Colorectal cancer can affect any segment of the small or large intestine and specific carcinomas of the cecum can occur. Symptoms of colon cancer include constipation, a feeling of incomplete stool elimination, bloody stool, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. The exact cause of colon cancer is unknown, but genetics, polyps, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and Lynch syndrome seem to increase cancer development, according to Cedars-Sinai Hospital.