What is intestinal ischemia?
Intestinal ischemia or mesenteric ischemia is a pathology in which the arteries of the intestine are narrowed or obstructed leading to a deficient vascular supply and causing tissue damage. When this deficit is more intense and long-lasting, it can cause death. It can affect either the small or large intestine or both at the same time. If it affects the first one it is called mesenteric ischemia, in case of being in the large intestine or colon it is called ischemic colitis.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms caused by intestinal ischemia may appear suddenly or gradually over time. In the latter case, the symptoms are the appearance of abdominal cramps or a sensation of fullness, 30 minutes after eating and lasting approximately one to three hours. Others are abdominal pain with progressive worsening over weeks or even months, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, flatulence or constipation. If there is sudden loss of blood to the intestine or sudden or severe severe abdominal pain, it is necessary to consult a specialist urgently.
Causes of intestinal ischemia or why it occurs
Some of the causes that can provoke this disease are: tumors, intestinal hernias, previous surgeries at abdominal level, arrhythmias or an arteriosclerotic disease. In complicated cases, the end result may be visceral ischemia or infarction of the affected intestinal area.
Factors that increase the risk of intestinal ischemia include the presence of fatty deposits in one or more arteries (atherosclerosis) in the intestines, blood pressure that is too high or too low, heart problems such as congestive heart failure or irregular heartbeat, medications such as contraceptives or medications that cause blood vessels to dilate or constrict, such as treatments for allergies or migraines. Others are the travel of a blood clot to the intestinal arteries; blood clotting problems, including those linked to sickle cell anemia and antiphospholipid syndrome; and finally the use of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
Can it be prevented?
You can reduce the rate of suffering it by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and reducing the amount of sugar, cholesterol and fat, quitting smoking, practicing physical exercise regularly for at least 30 minutes, maintaining healthy weight levels and controlling other health problems such as high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, among others.
What does the treatment consist of?
Effective treatment is that which involves restoring sufficient blood flow to circulate through the digestive tract. There are different treatments depending on the type and degree of ischemia. In most cases it is treated through surgery by removing the part of the intestine that has died and connecting the remaining healthy ends. In other situations, a colostomy or ileostomy is required and, if possible, the blockage of the arteries is corrected.