A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows doctors to look inside their patient’s large intestine and rectum. The purpose of this procedure is to help in the detection of health issues and abnormalities that may be found in the gastrointestinal tract.
The prominence of this procedure lies in its ability to identify, monitor, and treat various ailments that may have otherwise gone undetected.
From painful ulcers to dangerous polyps, here are five conditions that a colonoscopy can detect.
Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States. This cancer occurs in the colon or rectum and begins as a small, noncancerous growth or polyp. As time passes, these harmless polyps may turn dangerous, eventually developing into cancerous tumors.
A colonoscopy can detect these polyps before they turn into tumors, allowing doctors to remove them in time and preventing the development of cancerous cells. Early detection of this cancer is an important step toward effective treatment—and a colonoscopy is one of the best ways to catch it before it worsens.
Early signs may include:
- Blood in the stool
- Changes in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Unexplained weight loss
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 67% of people aged 50 to 75 are up-to-date with their colorectal screening. It’s an essential activity to keep your health in order.
Ulcerative colitis is another term used to refer to inflammation of the inner lining of the colon or rectum. It may also cause sores along your digestive tract.
It oftentimes occurs as a result of infection, injury, food intolerance, stress, chemical exposure, autoimmune disease, and certain medications.
Colitis can be classified into different categories depending on the site of inflammation:
- Ulcerative colitis: This type inflames the area closest to the anus. It is characterized by sudden and urgent diarrhea that may be bloody, as well as abdominal cramps and an inability to defecate despite feeling the need to.
- Proctosigmoiditis: This type of colitis affects the rectum and sigmoid colon, or the bottom end of the colon. It starts out as a long-term irritation that causes bloody diarrhea and a limited ability to move the bowel.
- Pancolitis: This affects the entire colon and may cause severe diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
Symptoms may develop gradually rather than suddenly if left untreated. These symptoms include:
- Fever and chills,
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps and pain
This condition may lead to lifetime complications. There is no cure, but people can control their symptoms and keep it from getting worse, putting the disease into long-term remission.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the digestive system. It occurs when the immune system acts against its own tissues, leading to chronic inflammation.
Crohn’s can cause both small and large intestines to become swollen, which leads to many symptoms such as:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Urgent need to move bowels
- Abdominal cramping and pain for no known reason
- Loss of appetite
Crohn’s disease is likely related to genetics and a malfunctioning immune system, but doctors are unable to pinpoint an exact source. Although there is currently no cure for this condition, it can be treated and managed with medications and lifestyle changes.
People with Crohn’s may also require surgery to remove damaged areas of the digestive system if there’s severe bleeding from the bowel or toxic megacolon.
Diverticulosis is a condition that affects the colon and large intestine in which small pouches (also known as sacs) form on the wall of the colon.
This happens when pressure from inside the inner lining applies too much pressure for the outer lining to handle, causing it to bulge out.
These pouches can sometimes become inflamed and infected, causing sores in the wall of the colon, or diverticulitis.
Symptoms of diverticulosis include:
- Belly pain or cramping
A doctor may prescribe a pain reliever once they detect that you have diverticulosis through a colonoscopy.
A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach bulges through the large muscle that separates your chest and abdomen.
Hiatal hernias can be non-fatal, but a large hiatal hernia can cause food to run back through your esophagus and cause heartburn.
Doctors may recommend that you take part in a hiatal hernia screening if they see an enlarged esophagus during your colonoscopy.
If you experience shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, and passing of black stools, it may be a hiatal hernia. Contact a doctor to treat and diagnose these symptoms.