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Ischemic Colitis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 1, 2023.

What do I need to know about ischemic colitis?

Ischemic colitis is a condition that occurs when there is decreased blood flow to your colon. Mild ischemic colitis usually gets better on its own. Severe ischemic colitis can lead to health problems that can become life-threatening. Ischemic colitis may return or become chronic (lasts longer than 2 weeks).

What increases my risk for ischemic colitis?

The cause of ischemic colitis is usually unknown. The following may increase your risk of ischemic colitis:

  • Surgery on your heart or blood vessels
  • Medical conditions, such as coronary artery disease (buildup of fat in your arteries) and diabetes, that affect blood flow
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Infection caused by bacteria such as E. coli
  • Certain medicines such as antidiarrhea medicines, high blood pressure medicine, birth control pills, heart medicine, or migraine headache medicine
  • Decreased blood flow to the intestines during strenuous activity such as long-distance running

What are the signs and symptoms of ischemic colitis?

  • Sudden abdominal cramping and pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Bright red or maroon blood in your bowel movements a day after abdominal pain starts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever

How is ischemic colitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical conditions and medicines you take. You may need any of the following:

  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, will show pictures of the blood flow in your colon. You may be given contrast liquid before the scan. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
  • A colonoscopy is a procedure that may be done to look inside your bowel. Your healthcare provider will use a scope to look inside your bowel. A scope is a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end.
  • Blood tests may be done to check for signs of infection, and to find out how bad your condition is.
  • A sample of your bowel movement may be taken to look for signs of infection.

How is ischemic colitis treated?

Treatment depends on how bad your condition is. Mild ischemic colitis usually gets better on its own within about 3 days. Your colon will heal completely in about 1 to 2 weeks. Antibiotics may be given to treat a bacterial infection. You may need treatment for any conditions that caused ischemic colitis. You may need surgery if your ischemic colitis is severe or chronic. Surgery may be done to remove dead tissue, repair damage to your colon, or remove part of your colon.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a fever and severe abdominal pain or bloating.
  • You have decreased or no passage of gas or bowel movements.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You feel too full to eat.
  • You have nausea and vomiting.
  • You continue to have abdominal pain or diarrhea for more than 2 weeks.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.