Diagnosing & Treating Anorectal and Colorectal Disorders
There’s an area of colon and rectal health, including a broad range of conditions and ailments that can be mildly irritating to life-threatening, that’s important for everyone to be familiar with. Diseases of the rectum and anus (anorectal disorders) and diseases of the colon and rectum (colorectal) are common, and most likely, the prevalence among the general population is higher than we know.
This is because many people suffering from these conditions do not seek medical care. And it’s understandable. It can be embarrassing to talk about problems in these areas. But we know through research and studies that early screening and treatment of colon and rectal diseases can significantly improve treatment outcomes and survival rates.
When you know more about anorectal and colorectal diseases, it’s easier to recognize symptoms, and we hope you will feel more comfortable coming in to see us.
Anorectal and Colorectal Disorders to Be Familiar With
Our physicians at Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute are trained in diagnosing and treating these disorders, and there is nothing they haven’t seen before. Your physician will perform an exam to determine the best course of treatment. The good news is that many anorectal and colorectal problems are treatable when recognized early and properly diagnosed. Often, there are treatment options that do not involve surgery or complicated procedures. However, sometimes, we do determine that a more involved treatment is necessary.
One tricky element to some of these disorders is that symptoms can closely resemble those of other such diseases, so there is the potential for misdiagnosis and mistreatment. This is why it is so crucial that you seek help from experts in the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of colon and rectal problems.
Here are a few of the more common anorectal and colorectal disorders to be familiar with:
- Anal abscess or fistula -- An abscess is a cavity filled with pus, and most often this results from a blockage of the anal glands. A fistula is a connection or tunnel between the anal gland and the buttocks, usually very close to the anal opening. An anal fistula is almost always the result of an anal abscess. Abscesses produce considerable pain and swelling next to the anal opening. A fistula produces drainage from the anal canal to the opening of the fistula on the buttocks.
- Anal fissure -- An anal fissure is a tear or split in the lining of the anus. It usually causes significant pain with and after bowel movements. Treatment involves resolving the underlying cause to allow the fissure to heal. Sometimes an operation is required if symptoms do not resolve.
- Pruritus ani -- Pruritus ani refers to itching around the anal area, which is often most troublesome at night or following a bowel movement. Common causes include excessive cleaning or wiping and excessive sweating in the anal area. Some beverages, including alcohol, citrus, and caffeine-containing drinks, may make pruritus ani worse. Poor hygiene is usually not the cause.
- Rectal bleeding -- Many conditions can cause rectal bleeding, but all cases should be evaluated to identify the cause. Significant conditions, such as cancers and polyps, can bleed regularly or intermittently. The most common causes of rectal bleeding include hemorrhoids, fissures, and polyps. Risk factors that often lead to further investigation include older age, family history of bowel disease or cancer, and the non-resolution of the bleeding after treatment of the suspected cause. Total colon examination with a colonoscopy may be required.
- Ulcerative colitis -- This is an inflammatory disease of the large intestine (colon). Symptoms include bleeding with bowel movements, abdominal pain or bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of all of these. To confirm the diagnosis, we may do a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy and take some biopsies of the colon wall to confirm the diagnosis. While there is currently no medical cure for ulcerative colitis, we can prescribe medicine to relieve symptoms, and surgery can be curative.
- Crohn's disease -- Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory condition primarily involving the intestinal tract. Crohn's is diagnosed through a physical examination, review of symptoms, and family history. Testing may include a sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or radiographic studies. Medical treatment with anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive medication to control symptoms is the preferred initial form of therapy, but surgery to remove the diseased segment of the bowel may be recommended in more advanced or complicated cases.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) -- IBS is a common intestinal muscle functioning disorder involving constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain, cramping or a combination of all. Because the symptoms of IBS closely resemble those of other, sometimes life-threatening diseases, such as colon cancer, we urge you to seek medical attention. Increasing the amount of liquids and bulk-forming foods in the diet to soften stools may provide relief, but if dietary change does not help, we may prescribe medications that help intestinal muscle contractions return to normal.
- Diverticular disease -- Diverticular disease involves the presence of pockets (called diverticula) in the colon wall. Diverticulitis is inflammation or infection of these pockets. The condition is typically treated with a high-fiber, low-fat diet and occasionally by medications to control pain, cramps, and changes in bowel habits. Surgery is reserved for severe or recurrent diverticulitis.
- Hemorrhoids -- Hemorrhoids are one of the most common colorectal ailments. They are swollen veins in the anus and lower rectum and can have many causes, such as straining during bowel movements or increased pressure on veins during pregnancy. Hemorrhoids may be located inside the rectum (internal hemorrhoids), or they may develop under the skin around the anus (external hemorrhoids).
Seek Treatment for These Disorders Now!
As mentioned above, these diseases can be difficult to diagnose, and we don’t want you to let embarrassment or fear stop you from seeking treatment. If exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned, your best bet is to see a colon and rectal specialist. The answer to your problem may be relatively simple, requiring at-home treatment and lifestyle changes.
The answer could also be that further testing to diagnose a larger problem is necessary. At Alabama Colon and Rectal Institute, we are experts at diagnosing and treating diseases of the colon and rectum and will be happy to help you, too.
Learn more about anorectal and colorectal disorders at Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute.