What is a redundant colon?
Your colon (large intestine) is a part of your digestive system. At one end, it attaches to your small intestine. At the other, it attaches to your rectum and anus.
Large amounts of bacteria are present in the colon. Bacteria work to break down any remaining undigested food materials. The colon also absorbs water and transports the remaining waste to the rectum, where it’s expelled as a stool.
The average colon size is 120 to 150 centimeters (roughly 47 to 60 inches) in length.
However, an individual with a redundant colon has an abnormally long colon, especially in the final section (called the descending colon). A redundant colon often has additional loops or twists.
Other names for a redundant colon include a tortuous colon or elongated colon.
What are the symptoms of a redundant colon?
Some people may have a redundant colon and never experience symptoms associated with it.
Others may have increased bloating, constipation, and fecal impaction. Impaction is caused by a large, hard, dry stool that stays in the rectum, making it difficult to pass waste.
If left untreated, constipation can cause complications, including hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or rectal prolapse, which causes the intestine to protrude from the anus.
People with a redundant colon are at increased risk for colonic volvulus. This is when the colon twists around itself. Colonic volvulus slows or completely stops the flow of stool, leading to a colonic obstruction, and is often a surgical emergency.
A redundant sigmoid colon could lead to sigmoid volvulus. The sigmoid colon is the part of the colon closest to the rectum. Symptoms of sigmoid volvulus include:
- failing to pass a bowel movement in some time
- distended, air-filled abdomen
- lower abdominal pain
What causes a redundant colon?
Some people have a genetic predisposition for a redundant colon. If a family member has a redundant colon, you’re at greater risk for having one too. Others may have a redundant colon with no known cause.
When should I seek medical help?
Many people live with a redundant colon without ever knowing that they have one. It isn’t considered a medical emergency.
However, having a redundant colon can increase your risk for some gastrointestinal-related conditions that could require medical treatment.
Seek emergency medical help if you:
- have extreme stomach or lower abdominal pain
- don’t have a bowel movement for more than 3 days
- start vomiting a brown, stool-like substance
How is a redundant colon treated?
Redundant colon doesn’t always require medical intervention. Many people can live with a redundant colon without needing any treatments. Some severe cases (with recurring complications) do require surgical correction.
How do I care for a redundant colon at home?
People with redundant colon have more colon lengths for digested food to travel and are more likely to experience constipation. For some, consuming a diet high in fiber can reduce the chances of constipation.
Examples of high-fiber foods include:
- whole grains
The more processed a food is, the less fiber it likely has.
According to Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily amount of fiber is roughly 30 to 38 grams per day for men and 21 to 25 grams per day for women. If you eat much less, slowly increase your intake.
Drinking plenty of water also helps to soften stools, making them easier to pass.
If you continue having difficulty with constipation, talk to your doctor. They can recommend a fiber supplement or determine whether you may benefit from a laxative.
However, for others, this may make things worse. Fiber can add extra bulk to stool, which then has difficulty getting around all the tortuous corners and folds of a redundant colon.
When constipation is an issue in someone who has a redundant colon, various other options for treating constipation are available.
These options include medications that draw more water to the colon or stimulate contractions in bowels to move things along. For some, a low-fiber diet may be what’s best.
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