Colon Disease Overview

How The Colon Works

Food begins its journey through the body at the stomach. It then moves into the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed. The colon — also known as the large intestine or large bowel — absorbs water from digested food. Muscular contractions of the colon move the waste left over from this process to the rectum. A bowel movement expels the solidified waste from the body.

What Happens If Your Colon Doesn’t Function Properly

The colon sends out signals when it isn't working properly. It’s vital that you pay attention to these signals — early diagnosis is a key to the best possible outcome. Consult your doctor if you experience the following:

  • Abdominal pain — especially on the left side
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Persistent diarrhea or constipation
  • Rectal bleeding or bloody stools
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Fever

The Three Types of Colon Disease

Your physician will examine you and perform specific tests to determine what, if any, colon disease is present. Colon disease is grouped into three categories, with more specific diagnoses around each. 

Inflammatory bowel disease includes:

  • Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the tissues anywhere in the bowel that can go deep into the layers of affected tissues
  • Ulcerative colitis, an inflammation of the bowel tissue that usually affects the innermost lining of the colon

Diverticular disease includes:

  • Diverticulosis, a common and benign condition in which little pouches protrude from the colon; usually no treatment is required 
  • Diverticulitis, a condition in which little pouches in the colon become inflamed, causing pain

Colon polyps and cancer include:

  • Colonic polyps, small growths in the colon that may be benign or signal the possibility of colon cancer
  • Colon cancer, malignant (cancerous) cells found in polyps or the lining of the colon

Click on any of the links above to get a detailed review of these diagnoses.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.