Colon Disease

Colon Disease Overview

How the colon works

Medical illustration

What Is The Function Of My Colon?

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. The waste left over from this process is moved by muscular contractions of the colon to the rectum. A bowel movement expels the solidified waste from the body.


What Happens If My Colon Doesn’t Function Properly?

The colon sends out signals when it does not function properly. It’s vitally important that you pay attention to these signals because 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

How Do I Know What’s Wrong With My Colon?

Your physician will examine you and perform specific tests to determine what, if any, colon disease is present. Colon disease is commonly grouped in three different categories, with more specific diagnoses arising from these categories. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which 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, usually affecting the innermost lining of the colon

Diverticular Disease, which 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, which include:

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

Click on any of the highlighted links above to get a detailed review of the diagnoses summarized here.

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.