Skip to main content
ASK AN EXPERT
Got a question about a health story in the news or a health topic? Here's your chance to get an answer. Send us your questions about general health topics, diet and fitness and mental health. If your question is chosen, it could be featured on CNN.com's health page with an answer from one of our health experts, or by a participant in the CNNhealth community.




* CNN encourages you to contribute a question. By submitting a question, you agree to the following terms found below.
You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. By submitting your question, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your questions(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statment.
Thank you for your question!

It will be reviewed and considered for posting on CNNHealth.com. Questions and comments are moderated by CNN and will not appear until after they have been reviewed and approved. Unfortunately, because of the voume of questions we receive, not all can be posted.

Submit another question or Go back to CNNHealth.com

Read answers from our experts: Living Well | Diet & Fitness | Mental Health | Conditions

Expert Q&A

  • Share this on:
    Share
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

Will I have ischemic colitispainforever?

Asked by Kevin, Illinois

Open quote
Close quote

I have ischemic colitis. I was in the hospital for four days and got better. But a week later, the pain came back. Will I have this for the rest of my life?

Expert Bio Picture

Conditions Expert Dr. Otis Brawley Chief Medical Officer,
American Cancer Society

Expert answer

Ischemic colitis is an acute condition. In an attack, the large intestine or colon is not getting enough oxygenation due to decreased blood flow.

Symptoms of ischemic colitis are vague. They include: mild to severe abdominal pain and diarrhea, often bloody diarrhea.

The physician may consider many other illnesses before making the diagnosis. Ischemic colitis can have symptoms similar to infectious colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, appendicitis and colon carcinoma.

Ischemic colitis is most commonly caused by a reduction in blood flow through a mesenteric artery. The superior and inferior mesenteric arteries supply oxygenated blood from the aorta to the small and large intestine respectively. The inferior mesenteric artery is most commonly affected.

The decrease in blood flow can be due to blockage or spasm of the mesenteric artery or decreased blood pressure. The decreased blood pressure is usually due to a heart problem or an over-reaction to a medication to lower blood pressure.

Ischemic colitis is rare. When it is found, it is usually in an elderly patient with a number of underlying illnesses. There are some cases described of long-distance runners developing it as their body shunts blood flow away from the bowel to muscle.

For the majority of patients (85%) the ischemic attack is transient, or temporary. Patients are treated with hydration and bowel rest, meaning nothing to eat or drink for several days. Ischemic colitis usually resolves without later problems.

A small portion of the 85% develop long-term complications after an attack. This can include prolonged inflammation of the bowel and a narrowing stricture of the bowel. These complications can seem like a prolonged attack of ischemic colitis. They may have to be treated with surgical removal of the affected part of the bowel.

While most have one time limited attack and it gets better, a few patients have repeated attacks. In this case, prognosis really depends on the cause of the ischemia. When there is a single occlusion of the artery, it might be treated with stent placement.

About 15% of patients with ischemic colitis have a severe complication. Most common are systemic infection (sepsis) and death of a part of the colon (bowel infarction). These patients often have gangrene of the bowel. These complications can make surgery difficult to perform and can be catastrophic and cause death in a matter of hours.

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has issued guidelines on the diagnosis and management of intestinal ischemia.

Ask our expert doctors a question

More Q&A

  • CNN's Medical UnitCNN's medical unit brings you the best experts available to answer your questions about current events and health issues that matter most to you.
Is secondhand smoke really that risky?asked by: Asked by David; Tampa, Florida
Can a nerve stimulator stop my back pain?asked by: Asked by Larry; New York
Is the inability of cancer patients to eat a concern?asked by: Steve Snodgrass; Bowling Green, Kentucky
Quick Job Search
keyword(s):
enter city:

CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.