What is intestinal ischemia and its causes?
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- Paul Petersen
- 10th March 2022
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 poor vascular irrigation and causing tissue damage.
When this deficit is more intense and lasting, it can cause death.
It can affect both the small and large intestines or both at the same time.
If it affects the first, it is called Intestinal Ischemia, if it is found in the thick or colon, it is called Ischemic Colitis
What symptoms does Intestinal Ischemia present?
Symptoms caused by Intestinal Ischemia can appear suddenly or gradually over time. In the latter case, the symptoms are the appearance of abdominal cramps or a feeling of fullness, 30 minutes after eating and lasting approximately between one to three hours.
Others are :
- Gastritis or Constipation
- Abdominal pain
These can cause progressive worsening over weeks or even months.
If there is a sudden loss of blood to the intestine or intense abdominal pain suddenly or severely, it is necessary to urgently consult a specialist.
What are the causes of Intestinal Ischemia or why does it occur?
Some of the causes that can cause this disease are:
- Intestinal Hernias
- Previous abdominal surgeries
- Or an arteriosclerotic disease
In complicated cases, the final result can be Visceral Ischemia or Infarction of the affected intestinal area.
The factors that favor an increased risk of suffering from Intestinal Ischemia are:
- Presence of fatty deposits in one or more intestinal arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Blood pressure that is too high or low
- Medications such as birth control that cause blood vessels to dilate or constrict
- Treatments for Allergies or Migraines
- Others are the journey of a blood clot to the intestinal arteries
- Blood clotting problems, including those linked to sickle cell anemia
- Antiphospholipid syndrome
- Use of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
Can intestinal ischemia be prevented?
You can reduce the rate of suffering from 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 of Intestinal Ischemia consist of?
The effective treatment for Intestinal Ischemia is one that involves restoring blood flow enough for its circulation through the digestive system.
There are differences depending on the type of ischemia and the degree. 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.
What specialist is in charge of treating Intestinal Ischemia?
When requesting the consultation, it is possible that you will be referred to a specialist in Intestinal Ischemia, such as a Gastroenterologist or a Vascular Surgeon.
Preparation before the appointment
If you have severe abdominal pain that prevents you from sitting up, head to the emergency room. You may be referred for an immediate exam to diagnose and treat your condition, possibly with surgery.
If your abdominal pain is moderate and predictable (for example, it always starts after eating), make an appointment with your doctor. When you make your appointment, you may be referred to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist or vascular surgeon.
What you can do
Ask about pre-consultation restrictions. When making your appointment, ask if you need to do anything ahead of time, like watching yourself with meals. Your doctor will likely ask you not to eat past midnight the day of your appointment.
Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for your visit.
Write down any other medical conditions, such as blood clots, or other procedures you’ve had.
Ask your relative or family member to come with you. The person with you can help you remember what the doctor says.
Write down questions to ask the doctor.
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