Colon and Rectal Issues
Proctologists are specialists that are experts in treating colon and rectal issues. The following are six of the most common colon and rectal issues that are treated by a Board Certified Proctologist, Dr. Robert West.
Colon and Rectal Issues: #1 Anal Fissure
Anal fissures are very common and can affect almost everyone at some point in their lives. This is a tear in the skin of the lining of the anus. They are often confused with hemorrhoids because they can cause pain and bleeding. The cause of anal fissures can be:
- A hard dry bowel movement
- Inflammatory conditions of the anal area
- Foods that are not digested well that are sharp in nature such as tortilla chips, nuts and popcorn.
All of these can cause a tear in the skin. Anal fissures can be very painful. They can interfere with bowel movements because of the pain. A high fiber diet, increased fluids and stool softeners can help to reduce the pain. Sitz baths (soaking in warm water) can help soothe the area. However, due to the severity of pain, the muscle inside the anus, the internal sphincter muscle, can go into spasm. This causes loss of blood flow. It makes it hard for the fissure to heal.
There is a new topical cream created for anal fissures and other colon and rectal issues. This cream uses Nifedipine and Lidocaine and sometimes other substances depending on what you need. It was created and is manufactured here in St. Louis by Bellevue Pharmacy. It reduces the anal pressure and spasms and improves blood flow to aid healing and relieve pain from anal fissures. This cream is available through Dr. West’s office. We specially order it for you and the pharmacy delivers it to your house. Persistent fissures that do not heal may require surgery. Or, they may be an indication of another medical problem. If you are experiencing continuing pain, please contact our office.
Colon and Rectal Issues: #2 Constipation
Constipation has different meanings for different people. From a medical perspective, constipation means having three or less bowel movements within a week on a consistent basis. It also means having small, hard, or difficult stools.
“Normal” bowel movements vary by individual. Some people may have as many as three bowel movements a day. Others may have three bowel movements a week. Constipation is largely affected by diet. Getting 25-30 grams of fiber a day along with 60-80 ounces of water each day makes for proper bowel function. Exercise each day also helps.
Almost everyone will experience constipation during their life. Brief periods of constipation are normal. Expecting a bowel movement each day has lead to the overuse or abuse of laxatives. When overused, laxatives will disrupt your body’s ability to have a bowel movement on its own. Abuse can cause serious damage to your digestive system.
Causes of Constipation
- Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
- A change in diet
- Certain diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s can cause constipation.
When to be Concerned about Constipation
- If you have a persistent change in bowel habits
- If there is a decrease or increase in the size and frequency of a stool
- If you have difficulty having a bowel movement
- If symptoms have persisted for more than three weeks
- If blood appears in your stool
See Dr. West right away. Most issues with constipation are treated with adding fiber, increasing fluids and exercise. More serious concerns will involve tests to find out the causes for the constipation.
Colon and Rectal Issues: #3 Diarrhea
Diarrhea is having loose, watery stools. The cause is usually contracting a virus. Diarrhea will usually go away on its own unless there are issues such as a bacterial infection which may need to be treated with antibiotics. There may also be a possibility of a bowel disorder such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
When to be Concerned about Diarrhea
Diarrhea can become dangerous especially in children or the elderly because of the chance of dehydration. Too much fluid loss will cause a drop in electrolytes (sodium, chloride and others) causing the body to not function properly. Signs of dehydration are:
- Infrequent urination
- Dark urine
- Being thirsty
- Feeling light-headed
- Feeling fatigued.
Symptoms such as:
- Severe pain in the abdomen or rectum
- A fever of over 102 degrees
- Blood in the stool
- Signs of dehydration or
- Diarrhea lasting more than three days are serious.
Please call our office right away.
Colon and Rectal Issues: #4 Colon and Rectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States. It’s estimated that 90% of patients contracting cancer are over the age of 40.
Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- Polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum)
- Cancer in other organs, especially breast cancer or uterine cancer
- A history of ulcerative colitis.
It has been proven that cancer starts in pre-cancerous polyps. Polyps usually don’t produce symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have a colonoscopy to look for polyps.
Colon cancer is generally preventable. That’s why it’s important to be screened. A colonoscopy provides a detailed examination of the bowel and polyps found can be removed.
The most Common Symptoms of Colon Cancer are:
- Rectal bleeding
- Change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
- Abdominal pain and loss of weight.
The last two are late stage symptoms indicating that the disease has progressed. Since these symptoms are similar to hemorrhoids, it’s important to have an evaluation by a physician trained in colon and rectal diseases. If you are experiencing these symptoms, contact Dr. West today.
Colon and Rectal Issues: #5 Anal Warts – HPV
Anal warts are tiny spots or growths that can appear inside and around the anus and around the genital areas. They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is considered a sexually transmitted disease. Warts happen from skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Anal warts are highly contagious. Symptoms can be:
- The presence of growths, which can grow to be very large
- Mucus discharge
- Lumps in the anal area.
It’s important to have the warts treated because they can grow larger and multiply. If left untreated, there is an increased risk of cancer in that affected area. It’s a good idea for sexual partners to be checked, even if they have no symptoms. HPV is a virus which can remain dormant in the body for years.
If you find you have anal warts, you need to abstain from having sexual contact. Condoms can lower the chances of infection, but HPV can infect areas not covered by the condom. Our center has various treatment options to help you decrease your recurrence rate.
Colon and Rectal Issues: #6 Anal Itching – Pruritus Ani
Itching in the anal area can be frustrating and embarrassing. You may think that the itching is caused by a lack of cleanliness. When there is itching there is a natural tendency to scrub the area abrasively. This desire for cleanliness makes matters worse! This scrubbing can damage the skin and wash away the body’s natural, protective oils. Common causes are:
- Excessive moisture in the anal area caused by perspiration or some small stool left after a bowel movement
- Eating certain foods: coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, milk products, tomatoes and tomato products like ketchup, cheese, chocolate, nuts, alcoholic beverages, especially beer and wine.
Itching can be a symptom of anal conditions such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures. To help the itching go away, do the following:
- Apply cornstarch powder to the area using cotton or soft gauze
- Avoid medicated, perfumed or deodorant powders
To avoid more trauma to the area:
- Don’t use soap of any kind
- Don’t scrub the area with anything, even toilet paper
- Use warm water and blot the area with baby wipes or a soft washcloth, again, don’t rub
- Don’t use over-the-counter treatments! They will dry out the area and make it worse
A careful examination in our office will help you identify the cause of your itching so that it can be treated quickly and safely. All of these colon and rectal issues are very common. Make an appointment with Dr. West today to help eliminate your issues so that you can enjoy renewed health and well-being.