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A patient with a colon abscess may experience fever, fatigue, chills, and intense pain, although the symptoms can vary between patients and cases. Patients with a history of gastrointestinal disease, particularly conditions like diverticulitis or a history of abscess, should discuss symptoms of this nature with a doctor. A doctor can evaluate the patient, perform some imaging studies, and determine if an abscess is present and what kind of treatment may be necessary.
Abscesses are trapped pockets of pus. In the colon, they can put pressure on the walls of the colon and could potentially rupture, pressing through the walls and releasing the contents of the colon into the abdominal cavity. This can cause a serious medical condition called peritonitis. If the abscess doesn't rupture on its own, a doctor may need to carefully lance it to drain it, remove the fluid, and treat the site to prevent infection.
Symptoms of an abscess can include pain, pressure, and discomfort in the lower abdomen. The patient may experience diarrhea or constipation and could notice blood, pus, or a strong smell if the abscess spontaneously ruptures. Appetite suppression can also occur, as the patient may not feel like eating because the intestinal tract is disturbed. These symptoms may grow worse with time, an indicator that they are not the result of passing severe cramps or other transient issues.
Fever and chills can develop, particularly if the colon abscess breaks open. Patients may also notice swelling, heat, and tenderness. Some feel fatigued and may develop weakness. Nausea and vomiting can occur along with an altered level of consciousness. Some patients get dehydrated because they are not receiving enough fluids, and this can cause disorientation and cognitive impairments.
These symptoms can get progressively more intense if the patient is not treated, and if the patient develops peritonitis, coma and death may follow. Peritonitis requires immediate medical treatment; signs of this condition can include altered level of consciousness, abdominal rigidity, extreme pain and swelling, and intense nausea and vomiting. Hospitalization may be necessary.
A doctor may suspect a colon abscess if a patient has a history of health problems in the colon. In other cases, the deposit of pus may be discovered during a routine workup to find out why a patient is feeling poorly. It may be possible to drain the colon abscess with a local or regional anesthesia in the office, although in severe cases, general anesthesia for a more invasive surgery that may include repair of the colon walls may be necessary for treatment. The doctor can determine the best option after looking at images and talking to the patient.