Problems of the large intestine are very common and patients should usually consult gastroenterologists for the proper diagnosis and treatment
1. Bleeding per rectum: Bleeding through the anal canal or rectum is usually the most common problem of the patients. It can be due to following reasons:
A. Piles also known as Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are dilated venous channels of the anal canal. They occur due to long term constipation or chronic cough or due to less fibre intake in the diet. Sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy is required for diagnosis. Treatment options include medicines and high fibre intake, Injection therapy(Sclerotherapy) for stopping bleeding from piles and Stapler hemorrhoidectomy if the piles are large.
B. Polyps: Polyps are soft tissue growths seen in the large intestine. They are usually silent but can present with bleeding or anaemia. Polyps usually grow slowly in size and large polyps can turn into cancer of large intestine also known as colorectal carcinoma. Colonoscopy is required for the diagnosis. The gastroenterologists can diagnose the presence of polyps by colonoscopy. Smaller polyps can be removed by polypectomy by gastroenterologists without the need for open surgery. However large polyps or those polyps with suspicion of cancer require surgery.
C. Large intestine Ulcer: They can occur due to early cancer, SRUS, Infections or drugs. They require colonoscopy for the diagnosis. The gastroenterologists usually take Biopsy from the ulcer to know the cause of the ulcer. The mere taking of biopsy does not mean cancer and biopsy samples are seen in the microscope for better diagnosis.
D. Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease: Ulcerative colitis is one form of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The other IBD is known as Crohn’s disease. Whereas ulcerative colitis involves only large intestine, Crohn’s disease can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract including small intestine. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease present with Loose stools(diarrhea), bleeding , abdominal pain, weight loss, Anemia and Perianal fissures and fistula. The diagnosis of IBD is challenging and involves blood tests, CT Scan abdomen, Colonoscopy with biopsy and clinical history. Management includes Medicines which control the inflammation such as Pentasa, Rowasa, Mesacol etc. Severe disease requires additional drugs such as Azathioprine and Anti TNF sich as Infliximab and Adalimumab. Occasional cases require surgery such as those with tight stricture of the intestine, severe dilatation of Large intestine (also known as Toxic megacolon), excessive bleeding, the disease not responding to medical management, or presence of cancer with IBD.
E. Anal fissures: Cut in the anal skin (fissure) causes severe pain in the anal area during passing motions. It is usually due to constipation or straining. It is usually treated by Gastroenterologists initially by medicines and ointments. If the pain continues Surgery is required named as Lateral internal sphincterotomy (LIS).
2. Loose motions or Diarrhea: Excessive passing of liquid motions is known as diarrhea or commonly lose motions. It is usually due to Infections caused by contaminated food and water. It is usually self-limiting. Severe cases with dehydration require admission for IV fluids and antibiotics for the infection. Loose motions for more than 6 to 8 weeks is known as chronic diarrhea. It is evaluated by blood tests and colonoscopy. Usual causes include tuberculosis, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis, Malabsorption such as chronic pancreatitis and small bowel bacterial overgrowth.
3. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is very common and at least 20 to 30 percent of Indian patients suffer from it. Symptoms include altered bowel habits such as diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pain which is usually relieved or increased by defecation. Weight loss or bleeding is not the feature of IBS. Few simple blood tests are required and good medicines are now available for IBS. Few cases may require colonoscopy to rule out alternative causes of the symptoms.
Understanding colonoscopy: Colonoscope is a flexible tube with a camera at its tip to see the inside of the large and small intestine. Bowel preparation is required at least 8 hours before the procedure so that the inside of the large intestine can be seen clearly without the interference of stools.colonoscopy is an OPD based procedure where the patients are discharged the same day. A colonoscopy helps in evaluation symptoms of the large intestine such as loose stools, bleeding and abdominal pain.