The colon is a part of large intestine and it comprises the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon and the sigmoid colon. Its primary function is absorption of water and electrolytes and preparation of waste products to be excreted in a form of feces. Length of the colon is about 1.5 meters. Enlargement of the colon is not a normal process, it may occur but, if this happens it points to the presence of some underlying disease. Enlarged colon is medically known as megacolon. Megacolon can be congenital or acquired. No matter what the cause of enlargement is, dilated and enlarged colon carries significant risk of serious complications.
Causes of Enlarged Colon
The most common causes of colon dilatation and its enlargement are infections and inflammation.
Megacolon represents abnormal dilatation of the entire colon. Dilatation in patients suffering from megacolon is additionally accompanied by a paralysis of the bowel movements. In most cases of megacolon it may happen that feces become extremely hard which requires surgical removal of these consolidated masses. As it has been mentioned before megacolon is either congenital or acquired medical condition. If it occurs after the birth it usually affects people suffering from Parkinson's disease, those who have had certain nerve damage, people who use narcotics or those suffering from Chagas disease. Hirschsprung's disease is a congenital megacolon. In this disease the colon is missing proper innervation. Toxic megacolon is an acute form of colon distention which predominantly affects people suffering from Chron's disease and ulcerative colitis. And finally, dilatation of the colon may be caused by chronic constipation.
Symptoms of Enlarged Colon
The most significant symptoms of enlarged colon include serious constipation and absence of bowel movements. This medical condition typically results in abnormalities of the intestinal peristaltic movement. The feces may remain in the colon and become hard. Hardening of the feces is known as fecalomas. Toxic megacolon features with increased body temperature, severe abdominal pain and tenderness, flatulence and diarrhea.
Enlarged Colon Treatment
The diagnosis of enlarged colon can be easily set after physical examination of the patient, abdominal X-ray and Anorectal manometry. The treatment can start only after the doctor has established the exact cause of enlarged colon.
People suffering from Hirschsprung's disease are usually treated surgically. Surgical procedure includes removal of the affected aganglionic part of the colon.
In case of toxic megacolon patients are administered corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory medications.
Prevention of colon enlargement may be achieved by consumption of food rich in fibers and specific measures against constipation. And timely treatment of inflammatory bowel disease may be another form of prevention against colon enlargement.