The colorectal tract consists of the colon and the rectum. The colon is essentially the large intestine, and it’s connected to the rectum, which is at the far end of the digestive tract. Like most other parts of the body, the colon and the rectum are prone to several diseases. Over the past few decades, research has helped us uncover the symptoms of these diseases, and medical practices have evolved significantly, allowing doctors to perform colorectal surgery to correct these problems.
Let’s get to know more about three common colorectal diseases, their symptoms, and the surgeries used to treat these conditions.
Diverticulitis is a colorectal disease in which small, bulging pockets develop along the walls lining the colon. These pockets are known as diverticula, and they’re generally benign. In some cases, however, these diverticula can become inflamed or infected, leading to problems that need to be treated.
Causes of Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis most often occurs when some of the weaker portions of your intestine give into pressure. Although there aren’t any specific causes for the disease, some of the many risk factors include:
- Age over 40
- Obesity and overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Low-fibre diets
- Drugs like steroids, opioids, and anti-inflammatory medicines
Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Fortunately, in most cases, diverticulitis is painless and doesn’t cause any symptoms. However, in case any of the diverticula tear and succumb to infections or inflammation, the following symptoms may develop.
- Pain in the left side of the abdomen
- Frequent abdominal cramping
- Bright red blood in stool
- Relief after passing gas
Colorectal Treatment Surgery for Diverticulitis
Currently, surgery is the only method that can remove diverticula. There are two kinds of surgery for treating diverticulitis.
- Bowel resection with primary anastomosis
- Bowel resection with colostomy
In this first procedure, the infected colon is removed. This procedure is known as a colectomy. Your surgeon then sews the two remaining healthy portions together.
In the second procedure, the infected portion is removed, and the bowel is connected through an opening in your abdomen, called a stoma. Upon assessing the progress of your recovery over the next few months, your surgeon shall decide if the colostomy is temporary or permanent.
2. Anal Fissures
As is evident from the name, anal fissures are small tears in the lining of the anus. Although they’re generally common in infants, it’s possible for people of all ages to suffer from anal fissures. The intensity of the condition also varies from one person to another and isn’t very life-threatening in a vast majority of the cases.
Causes of Anal Fissures
Some of the most common causes for anal fissures include:
- Passing large or hard stools
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Straining during bowel movement
- Anal intercourse
Sometimes, anal fissures can also develop due to diseases like:
- Anal cancer
- Crohn’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Also Read: Causes of Anal Fissure
Symptoms of Anal Fissures
Anal fissures always display symptoms that are very obvious. As a result, it’s easier to diagnose this issue early on. Some such symptoms include:
- Pain while passing stools
- Prolonged pain after passing stools
- Noticeable cracks in the skin around the anus
- Bright red blood in stools
- Skin tags near the anus
Colorectal Treatment Surgery for Anal Fissures
If you’re suffering from an acute case of anal fissures, it’s possible to use non-surgical methods like topical anaesthetic creams and Botox injections to treat the issue. However, in cases chronic anal fissure surgery may require, where your symptoms may be severe, colorectal surgery is necessary.
The procedure is known as lateral internal sphincterotomy. To perform the surgery, your doctor cuts a small portion of the anal sphincter muscle. As a result, pain and spasms are greatly reduced, allowing your fissures to heal faster.
3. Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is arguably the most life-threatening condition that can occur in the colorectal tract. Depending on the level of growth and spread of the cancer, it can be classified as stage I, II, III, or IV. The disease often begins as benign polyps in the intestine. Over time, some of these may turn into cancer. Regular screening can help identify and remove polyps before they become cancer.
Causes of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer can stem from many causes, some of which include lifestyle choices. Knowing the pattern that can increase the risk of this kind of cancer can help you structure a lifestyle that can greatly reduce your chance of developing the disease. Some such lifestyle-related causes of colon cancer include:
- Smoking and alcohol consumption
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Low-fibre, high-fat diet
Some of the other causes of colon cancer include:
- A family history of colon cancer
- Older age
- African-American race
- Radiation therapy to treat other cancers in the abdomen
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
The symptoms of colon cancer may often resemble the symptoms that precede other benign conditions. As a result, it may be difficult to identify the symptoms as cancer. Nevertheless, it’s best to get yourself tested when you notice two or more of the following symptoms.
- Rectal bleeding
- Continuous abdominal discomfort
- Any changes in your bowel habits lasting for two or more weeks
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unexplained loss of weight
Colorectal Treatment Surgery for Colon Cancer
Surgery for colon cancer depends on the stage of the disease. In early-stage colon cancer, your doctor may remove the polyps around the localized cancer. This is known as a polypectomy. Alternatively, endoscopic mucosal resection may be performed, wherein larger polyps are removed along with a small portion of the inner lining of the colon. Laparoscopic technique is another colorectal surgery for early-stage colon cancer.
For advanced colon cancer, a partial colectomy may be performed, where the surgeon removes the cancerous part of the colon.
The best way to keep colorectal diseases at bay is to follow a healthy diet and maintain an active lifestyle. Couple these with regular abdominal screening, and you’re well on the path to deal with these conditions as best as you possibly can.