Ischemic colitis occurs when there is impaired blood flow to your colon. This can result in areas of inflammation in the colon, and occasionally permanent damage related to scarring. Symptoms include crampy abdominal pain (more often on the left side of the abdomen), low grade fever, blood in the stool, and a sense of urgency to move one’s bowels. Causes of the condition include the development of blood clots in the blood vessels leading to the colon, chronic buildup of fatty deposits in those vessels, certain medications, and a variety of more unusual causes. Ischemic colitis is more common in older patients and those with risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and tobacco use.
Most cases of ischemic colitis are mild and heal on their own in a few days. Rarely, however, it can either progress to a more serious situation or indicate an underlying serious condition. Evaluation will usually start out with a detailed history and physical exam and often go on to include a colonoscopy to better evaluate the lining of the colon. Treatment usually depends on the severity of the ‘attack’ and involves minimizing risk factors.