Tortuous Colon

A tortuous colon is a condition that is medically termed as a redundant colon; it may be longer than the usual size/length and hence may need additional number of loops and twists to adjust into the available space in lower abdomen. A colon generally tends to be about 5 feet long. Longer than normal colons are rare and often involve the presence of additional loops.

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The name ‘tortuous colon’ has no relevance to any kind of pain, discomfort, or torture associated with the condition. It simply refers to the presence of ‘twists and bends.’ This may be an ideal definition of all kinds of intestines; however, a tortuous colon specifically refers to the presence of a longer than usual colon which gets subjected to extra loops, bends, and twists.

Tortuous colon is a mild condition which often does not result in any adverse symptoms or harmful health complications. However, in some instances, the elongated colon may experience an excessive number of bends and loops leading to severe twisting of the colon, constipation, and other gastrointestinal problems. Severe colon twisting can then cause blockages and obstruction in the intestines, which in turn is a serious condition.

People believe that tortuous colon can trigger a case of cancer or can be an early symptom of cancer development. This is however completely false. Tortuous colon is not associated with the occurrence of any cancers in any way.

A tortuous colon can be a congenital condition. It can also arise due to improper diet and eating habits. Treatment involves dietary and lifestyle changes.

Symptoms

Tortuous colon is a rare condition which can often be easily cured via some changes on the diet. It generally tends to be asymptomatic. In case symptoms do arise, then they are usually similar to those experienced during bowel conditions and gastrointestinal abnormalities.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of tortuous colon are listed below:

  • Abdominal cramping, bloating, increased gas, and irregular movements of the bowel are the most prevalent symptoms seen in patients. These symptoms are often a clear indication of an underlying case of tortuous colon.
  • Some patients may also exhibit skin problems such as rashes on the skin. They generally appear as a side effect of decreased or irregular elimination of toxins from the body via the colon.
  • The increased length of the colon as well as subsequent twisting and turning may sometimes result in bowel blockages. This is regarded as a serious health complication requiring urgent medical care. Affected individuals may suffer from constipation and pain in the abdomen. Additional symptoms include elimination of blood or mucus along with the stool, vomiting, and increased generalized swelling.

Causes

In medial parlance, a tortuous colon is known as a redundant colon. It is marked by a longer than usual colon that may need extra loops, twists, and bends to fit into the assigned area in the abdomen.

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The colon is a lengthy hollow tubular structure occurring in the lower abdomen. It is connected to the small intestine at one end and the anus at the other. Popularly known as the large intestine, the colon generally tends to be about five feet long. The colon primarily carries out the function of absorbing water and other liquids from waste matter so as to solidify it and create stool, which is eventually removed from the body via the anus.

Some people may be born with a case of tortuous colon, while others may develop it over a period of time due to improper eating habits and dieting. Decreased fiber content in consumed food triggers the formation of hard stools. Such stools can cause constipation, slow passage of feces across the colon, and excessive straining of the bowels during a bowel movement. The combination of all these factors can exert increased pressure on the colon and cause it to lengthen and thus become tortuous.

Diagnosis and Treatment 

A tortuous colon is diagnosed on the basis of the visible and physical signs and symptoms and later confirmed by a procedure called a colonoscopy. The method involves the insertion of an instrument called a colonoscope into the rectum of the affected person and detection of the presence of a tortuous colon. This procedure is especially helpful and effective in diagnosing a tortuous colon with severe looping and twisting.

Treatment for tortuous colon is needed only if it causes pain, discomfort, and adverse gastrointestinal symptoms. Treatment includes the following:

  • Mild symptoms associated with tortuous colon can be alleviated by decreasing the overall stress exerted on the colon. This can be achieved by opting for a diet that is rich in fiber. Drinking lots of water also helps in ensuring loosening up of the stools and its easy elimination from the body.
  • Doctors may sometimes prescribe laxatives to facilitate the smooth passage of stools through the colon.
  • Severe cases of tortuous colon underlined by intestinal obstructions may require medical attention, including surgery.
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