Irritable Bowel Syndrome - "Spastic Colon"

General Information

The normal function of the digestive tract is marvelously coordinated. Food and fluids enter at the top for digestion and absorption. The waste moves smoothly down the digestive tract for timely elimination. Not surprisingly, in some people a certain amount of incoordination in this process occurs. These people do not have changes in their anatomy as a cause of this difficulty, nor do they have ulcer, tumor, or inflammation. This may involve the colon (the large intestine). The change is in function; hence it is called functional bowel disease. Other names are irritable colon syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and mucous colitis.

Irritable colon syndrome can affect persons of any age. Elderly patients are not exempt. It is variable in its occurrence. Patients commonly experience long periods that are symptom free, punctuated by attacks of the problem that may last for days, weeks, or occasionally months. Although stress seems to initiate the attack, it is less likely that it is the cause; stress simply makes an underlying problem slightly worse so that it becomes apparent.

Irritable colon syndrome presents as a change in bowel habit, most often diarrhea, although diarrhea alternating with constipation does occur. Many people also experience a crampy abdominal pain, although a pain of this variety also occurs with simple diarrhea. Attacks are often abrupt in onset.

Important Points in Treatment
Treatment involves using medications to attempt to normalize the digestive tract function. If cramps are a problem, antispasmodic drugs are often helpful. If painless diarrhea is a problem, antidiarrheal drugs may correct the symptoms. The addition of a fiber supplement to the diet often benefits patients whose diffi- culty follows either pattern.

These are symptomatic treatments. When stress plays a role in the development and continuation of the problem, programs and medications for stress management are helpful. Selection of the proper drug is essential because the treatment of painless diarrhea may worsen painful irritable colon syndrome, and the reverse is true as well. Your physician will discuss with you the potential diagnoses and needed tests.

Notify Our Office If

  • You have a change in bowel habit.