Sigmoid colon pain can be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs medical attention, so it should not be ignored. Here we look at what the sigmoid colon is and what causes pain in this part of the body.
The sigmoid colon, or as some experts call it, the pelvic colon, is a section of the large intestine that connects the descending colon to the rectum. It helps to flow waste from the colon to the rectum. Sigmoid gets its name from the Greek word “sigma” and the fact that it is curved like the letter “S.” It is about 35 to 40 centimeters long and forms a loop. The size can change depending on how much waste it holds—the numbers above represent the sigmoid colon when it is contracted.
Pain in the sigmoid colon can be a sign of many different health issues; some mild and easy to address and others more serious.
What Are the Causes of Sigmoid Colon Pain?
Pain in the sigmoid colon is nothing to scoff at. For some people, it comes with terrible abdominal discomfort.
Here’s a look at some sigmoid colon pain causes:
This is a disease that leads to inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the colon. The most common location for ulcerative colitis is in the sigmoid colon. This is a disease that can impact anyone at any age but is mostly diagnosed before the age of 30. It can be very unpleasant because it not only causes abdominal pain but can also lead to constant bloody diarrhea. On the upside, 50 percent of those who are diagnosed with this disease only experience mild symptoms.
There are two types of diverticular disease: diverticulosis, which is when pockets develop in the intestinal walls; and diverticulitis, when the pockets become inflamed. Both types are common in the sigmoid colon. It is worth noting that diverticulosis is formed by numerous diverticula (pockets) that put pressure on weakened parts of the intestinal wall with gas, liquid, or waste. Diverticula can form while straining during a bowel movement. Most people show no symptoms unless it turns into diverticulitis. With sigmoid colon diverticulitis, people can experience rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and alternating diarrhea and constipation.
This is a gastrointestinal problem that can often lead to a large bowel obstruction. Doctors will refer to it as a “twisted” sigmoid colon. About five percent of bowel obstructions in the large bowel are sigmoid volvulus. This condition mostly impacts the elderly.
If you have an abnormally long colon, you can suffer from redundant colon, which means your colon is longer than the average. Some people with this condition have symptoms and some don’t. If it goes untreated, it can cause complications. Redundant colon usually occurs in the final section of the colon—the descending colon. People who suffer from this condition are at risk of volvulus.
Sigmoid Colon Cancer
Cancerous cells within the sigmoid area signals sigmoid colon cancer. There are different stages of this cancer, including small tumors that haven’t penetrated the colon’s mucosal layer, tumors that have penetrated the colon’s muscle wall, and cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes situated near the sigmoid colon. Some existing health factors, such as ulcerative colitis, polyps or growths, Crohn’s disease, and diets that lack fiber can increase the risk of sigmoid colon cancer. Abdominal pain and weight loss are just some of the symptoms.
Symptoms That May Accompany Sigmoid Colon Pain
Sigmoid colon pain symptoms can vary from one person to the next. As indicated earlier, some people experience mildly annoying symptoms. If the following symptoms arise, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.
- Bloody diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Fever and chills
- Intestinal obstruction
- Skin problems
- Tenderness in abdomen
How to Treat Sigmoid Colon Pain
Sigmoid colon pain treatment can be administered once a person receives a definite diagnosis. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and how bad the condition has become. Let’s look at treatments for each of the main sigmoid colon pain causes.
Treatment usually includes medicine or diet adjustments. There are some cases where surgery is required. Some people have to be treated for other problems that arise, such as infections or anemia. Treatment for children and teens can include nutritional supplements to help restore normal growth and sexual development.
Diet is known to affect flare-ups. Dairy products, too much fiber, spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol are all known to aggravate symptoms. It is helpful to consume small meals, drink plenty of water, and avoid carbonated drinks if you suffer from colitis.
Research suggests that eating a high-fiber diet may help calm symptoms of diverticular disease and help prevent diverticulitis. Adults should aim to eat 30g of fiber each day. Good sources of fiber include fresh or dried fruits, beans, nuts, and some vegetables. You can also turn to fiber supplements.
There are also pain-relieving medications that can help ease symptoms and those who have diverticulitis are usually treated with antibiotics. In severe cases, a sufferer may have to be hospitalized. In rare cases, surgery is needed to treat complications. The procedure is called a colectomy and involves removing the affected section of the large intestine.
When this condition is acute, which means it comes on suddenly, it is a medical emergency. This is because it could lead to a perforated colon. Treatment usually involves inserting a rectal tube to decompress the bowel. Chronic or long-term sigmoid volvulus is often treated with diet. Eating smaller meals, consuming fiber-rich foods, avoiding spicy or fried foods, and drinking a lot of water can be helpful.
There are medical approaches for the treatment of redundant colon, including surgery that may be necessary if the patient can’t pass stool. Non-surgical treatments include fiber supplements and diet adjustments. Since constipation is a common problem with this condition, adding fiber to the diet can be a good option. Additionally, consuming flaxseed, which acts as a natural laxative, eating whole grains, avoiding processed foods, and drinking plenty of water can also help.
Sigmoid Colon Cancer
The main treatment for sigmoid colon cancer is surgery. Part of the large bowel is removed, along with surrounding lymph nodes in a procedure called a colectomy. The remaining bowel is then joined together. When cancer is in the early stage, it is possible that only a small section of the colon will have to be removed. Cancers that are late stage require more of the colon to be taken out.
The prognosis for sigmoid colon pain really depends on how quickly the sufferer is diagnosed and starts treatment. In the case of ulcerative colitis and diverticular disease, there can be a lot of day-to-day challenges; however, seeing a gastroenterologist on a regular basis and following treatment instructions carefully can help prevent flare-ups.