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What Causes Colon Strictures?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Colon strictures occur when intestinal tissue becomes narrowed due to inflammation. There are several causes for the occurrence of this condition, from infection to inflammation and autoimmune disease. Individuals diagnosed with colon strictures may undergo a variety of treatments depending on the cause and severity of their condition. Approaches may range from dietary changes to the use of drug therapy and, in some cases, surgery to alleviate colonic inflammation.

Establishing the cause of colon strictures often involves several diagnostic and laboratory tests. A blood panel and imaging tests of the abdominal region, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan and X-ray, are usually ordered. It is not uncommon for some physicians to request a stool sample to send for laboratory analysis. In some cases, a colonoscopy may also be conducted to discount the possibility of malignancy.

Colon strictures may be caused by an infection in colonic tissue, as occurs with diverticulitis. The colon can sometimes house diverticula, or pouches, within its tissue that become easily inflamed and infected by the bacteria-laden fecal matter that passes through. As the tissue becomes more irritated, it swells, disrupts bowel movements, and causes abdominal discomfort.

Another factor that commonly contributes to colonic stricture is chronic inflammation. Ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is a condition marked by inflammation associated with the presence of ulcerated, colonic tissue; hence, its name. There is no known, definitive cause for the onset of this progressive condition that ultimately results in extensive scarring within the colon.

In some cases, an inexplicable, overactive immuno-response is responsible for the onset of colon strictures. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks healthy colonic tissue resulting in extensive inflammation. The chronic inflammation causes a narrowing of the colonic passage that impairs bowel function.

Individuals diagnosed with a narrowing of the colon may experience a range of signs and symptoms. Generally, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal discomfort are common with all forms of strictures. Other signs can include diminished appetite, fever, and significant weight loss.

Treatment for colon strictures is usually dependent on the severity and cause of one’s symptoms. Dietary changes, such as increasing or decreasing one’s fiber intake, and home remedies to alleviate discomfort, such as using a heating pad or soaking in a tub of warm water, are often recommended. When over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic medications are ineffective, prescription-strength antidiarrheals, immunosuppressants, and anti-inflammatory drugs may be given. Antibiotic medications are routinely given to eliminate infection. Surgery may be performed to excise diseased or dying colonic tissue and abscesses; in some cases, severe colonic strictures can necessitate the removal of the entire colon.

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Discussion Comments
By Phaedrus — On Feb 28, 2014
I know some people who are prone to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) whenever they become stressed out and start eating unhealthy foods. Their digestive system will go haywire for a few hours and they'll feel miserable, but it generally goes away with some OTC medications and a break from eating.

However, I met someone last year who had Chrohn's disease, and for her the problem was not dietary at all. She was extremely careful with her food choices, and she also tried to avoid stressful situations. Every so often, her disease would flare up and the result was a colon stricture. She told me the pain was almost unbearable at times, and she has had to spend time in the hospital for emergency treatments.

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