Human Anatomy – Colon

human-anatomy-colonYour feces are formed in the colon, the organ otherwise known as the large intestine. The small intestine essentially passes digested food to the colon. In turn, the colon strips the digested substance of salt, water and nutrients, eventually creating stool.

This organ is made up largely of muscles, allowing it to squeeze substances along. Innumerable “good bacteria” deck the walls of the colon.

Ileum, the last section of the small intestine, ends where the first part of the colon, the cecum, begins. From here, the colon ascends to the right side of the abdomen, before traveling across it. The colon then descends down the left side of the abdomen, towards the sigmoid, a brief curve marking where the rectum begins.

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Common colon conditions

In the US, 100,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer every year. But this type of cancer is curable at its earliest stages. Americans who lead a healthy lifestyle usually undergo regular screens to detect this cancer, which usually starts as small colon polyps that can be easily removed.

But the most common condition your colon has to contend with is diarrhea. You’ve probably experienced it at one time or the other, when you defecate more often than usual, your stool watery and loose. Although most diarrheas are self-limiting, they pose the very real danger of dehydrating you. If anything, they could just be symptoms of potentially life-threatening conditions like cancer.

If you have a bloody diarrhea, you may have an inflamed colon. Two conditions can cause colon inflammation: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease.

Apart from the colon, Crohn’s Disease may also affect the small intestines. Ulcerative colitis may affect the rectum.

Yet another colon condition to look out for is diverticulitis. It happens when small pouches and depressions in the colon, called diverticuli, bleed and get inflamed. Diverticulitis comes with such symptoms as constipation and abdominal pains.

Notwithstanding the countless microbes thriving in it, the colon is not suited to all kinds of bacteria. Salmonella, for one, can cause salmonellosis in the colon, leading to maladies like stomach cramps and diarrhea, which fortunately are self-resolving. Similarly, the bacterium Shigella can cause shigellosis, resulting in stomach cramps, bloody feces and fever.

Treating colon conditions

Oncologists usually treat colon cancer partly by colon surgery. This procedure (a laparoscopic or open surgery) entails the removal of the affected part of the colon and nearby areas.

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For the common diarrhea, you can simply buy from a gamut of anti-diarrheal medicines over the counter. However, these medicines only alleviate the discomfort that arises from diarrhea, not the underlying condition, if any.  Look out for natural remedy to handle this.

As for constipation, you would need laxatives, or alternatively, certain salts, to replenish water and stimulate the colon muscles. Stool softeners may do the same trick but only to an extent.

To relieve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines and certain antibiotics. Antibiotics are also needed to treat conditions stemming from inauspicious colon bacteria.

Doctors may make use of enemas to administer liquid medicines through the anus to treat constipation and many other conditions.

If you want to live a healthy lifestyle and prevent conditions like Crohn’s colitis, you may take probiotics for the colon. They serve as supplements of good microbes needed by the colon.

Tests for colon conditions

A doctor can scrutinize the colon in a process known as colonoscopy. A flexible tube with a camera on its end, called an endoscope, is introduced into the anus, through the rectum, and to the colon. The doctor can then see magnified images of the organ.

Besides a camera, the tip of the endoscope also bears tools for removing colon polyps, a process known as polypectomy. The doctor can also use the endoscope for a colon biopsy, taking out samples of colon tissue to diagnose an infection, inflammation or cancer.

If the endoscope is used to view the left side of the colon, then the procedure is called sigmoidoscopy.

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Before a colonoscopy, the doctor may request for a stool occult blood test.

Human Anatomy Series NavigationHuman Anatomy – IntestinesHuman Anatomy – PenisHuman Anatomy – Abdomen

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