Spastic colon is just another (rather old-fashioned) term for Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. It's sometimes improperly termed spastic colitis. Spastic colon is a devastating and incurable condition that afflicts up to 20% of the world's population.
Spastic colon is the single most common chronic health disorder in America, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, affecting more people than asthma, diabetes, and depression combined.
Spastic Colon is a physical - not psychological - disorder that affects mainly the bowel, or colon, which is also called the large intestine. The bowel is the part of the digestive system that makes and stores stool. Spastic Colon is characterized by lower abdominal pain or discomfort, diarrhea, constipation (or alternating diarrhea/constipation), gas, bloating, and nausea. There is no cure for Spastic Colon, but there are many very effective ways of controlling and even eliminating Spastic Colon symptoms.
Spastic colon is not a disease. It's a functional disorder, which means that the bowel simply does not work as it should. Spastic colon is characterized as a brain-gut dysfunction. As a part of this dysfunction, the gastrocolic reflex goes awry.
Spastic Colon Symptoms - What Are They? What Are The Rome Guidelines?
It's important to verify that your symptoms match those of Spastic Colon before you accept this diagnosis. As noted, Spastic Colon is characterized by continuous or recurrent lower abdominal pain or cramping (from mild to excruciating) in association with altered bowel motility (diarrhea, constipation, or both). Attacks may strike suddenly at any time of day or night, and may occasionally - though not typically - wake you from a sound sleep.
Gas and bloating are common, but vomiting isn't, though it can occur due to nausea from the pain. Upper GI symptoms are not a typical part of the syndrome. For women, attacks are often associated with menstruation. Passing blood, running a fever, swollen extremities, and joint pain are not symptoms of Spastic Colon, and point to other disorders. Spastic Colon is diagnosed in part by the use of the official diagnostic criteria known as the Rome Guidelines.
What Diseases Need to Be Ruled Out For a Spastic Colon Diagnosis?
In essence, the diagnosis of Spastic Colon is a process of exclusion. There is no medical test available that will be positive for Spastic Colon; instead, your doctor will test you for all other illnesses that can mimic Spastic Colon, and if those tests are negative, and if your symptoms fit the Rome II Guidelines, you'll then be diagnosed with Spastic Colon. In particular, it's important that the following diseases are excluded before you accept a diagnosis of Spastic Colon:
Inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis)
Diverticulosis / Diverticulitis
Celiac (a genetic, autoimmune disorder resulting in gluten intolerance)
What Tests Does a Diagnosis of Spastic Colon Require?
As a rule, all possible physical, structural, and infectious abnormalities of the GI tract need to be unquestionably eliminated before you agree to a Spastic Colon diagnosis. This requires a physical examination, preferably by a board-certified gastroenterologist, and may include the following studies:
Complete blood count, sedimentation rate, and chemistries
Blood tests for gluten intolerance (endomysial antibody and tissue transglutaminase antibody tests)
Blood and/or breath tests for fructose, and lactose intolerances
Breath test for small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Stool for ova, parasites, and blood
Liver function tests
For women, a gynecological exam including CA-125 blood test for ovarian cancer
Other diagnostic studies should be minimal and will depend on the symptom subtype. For example, in patients with diarrhea-predominant symptoms, a small bowel radiograph or lactose/dextrose H2 breath test. For patients with pain as the predominant symptom, a plain abdominal radiograph during an acute episode to exclude bowel obstruction and other abdominal pathology. For patients with indigestion, nausea, and bloating, an abdominal ultrasound to rule out gallstones. For patients with any numbness in association with constipation, Multiple Sclerosis should be excluded. For older patients (age 50 and above), pancreatic cancer may need to be excluded.
In general, the specific medical tests needed to rule out disorders other than Spastic Colon will depend upon your age, health history, family health background, and specific symptoms.
Points to Remember about a Spastic Colon
* Spastic Colon is a functional disorder in which the bowel doesn't work as it should.
* Spastic Colon can cause cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
* Spastic Colon does not damage the bowel.
* Spastic Colon cannot be self-diagnosed.
* A doctor should diagnose Spastic Colon based on your symptoms and the elimination of other possible diseases through various medical tests.
* Stress and foods (particularly fats, insoluble fibers, and GI irritants) can trigger symptoms, but the underlying pathology of Spastic Colon is caused by a brain-gut dysfunction.
Once you have a firm Spastic Colon diagnosis, take heart. While there is no cure yet, there are many ways to successfully manage - and prevent - all Spastic Colon symptoms. You can control your Spastic Colon, not vice versa.
Once you're confident that you've been properly diagnosed with a spastic colon, there are several key strategies to successfully managing this disorder: