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Inactive Colon - " Atonic Constipation"

What is an inactive colon?
The term inactive colon refers to a type of constipation that occurs most often in invalids or the elderly. Normally digestive waste is moved through the large intestine by the rhythmic contractions of the muscles encircling the colon, a process called peristalsis.

These muscles are, stimulated by the digestive process and the presence of the feces in the colon. Under normal circumstances, it takes 8 to 24 hours for the feces to travel the length of the colon and to be expelled through the rectum. An active colon either does not respond to the usual stimuli that promote evacuation, or the stimuli that occurs as a result of normal eating and physical activity are absent. As a result, elimination does not occur regularly and feces may become impacted, forming a mass in the rectum.

SYMPTOMS:
      Chronic constipation
      Lack of urge to defecate.
      Possible rectal pain, abdominal cramps and inability to have a bowel movement despite repeated     efforts (indication of fecal impactation).

What causes an inactive colon?
The most common causes are a sedentary life style and failure to eat regular, well-balanced meals. Medications that interfere with colon activity include codeine, cholestyramine (a cholesterol-lowering drug), beta-blockers, antacids, certain antidepressants, and clonidine (an antihypertnsive drug). The colon may also become inactive in people who continually use laxatives or enemas and have become dependant on them. Hormonal changes such as those that occur during pregnancy may contribute to this type of constipation. Finally, people who habitually disregard the urge to defecate may develop an inactive colon because the rectum becomes insensitive to the presence of feces.

How is an inactive colon diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosis is made on the basis of the symptoms, particularly the lack of urge to defecate, and a rectal examination. Other diagnostic tests such as examination of the rectum and the lower part of the colon with a proctoscope ay show normal results but are useful in ruling out other conditions.

A Barium enema, in which x-rays are taken after a chalky substance is administered through a tube into the rectum, may also appear normal. In some cases, however, diagnostic tests may show that he colon is usually wide. If a person has difficulty evacuating the barium, this suggests an inactive colon.

Treatments depends the patient over all health. Life style changes that often help include increasing physical activity, eating a balanced diet that is high in fiber, and drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of water or other clear fluids a day. Elderly people and invalids who cannot exercise may be treated withy mild laxatives such as milk of magnesia or sodium sulfate. If the problem is chronic, the goal is to promote regularity by trying to move the bowels at the same time each day. Glycerin suppositories may be prescribed to facilitate this.
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What can I do myself?
Even if you have no desire to defecate, set aside time each day at the same time to try to move your bowels.
The best time is usually half an hour ot an hour after breakfast. Food that enters an empty stomach activates and increases peristalsis, thereby speeding up the passage of the feces through the colon. In addition, residue from meals eaten the day before should be in the rectal area at this time, ready for elimination.

Do not strain at stool; instead, relax and wait calmly. Allow enough time not to feel rushed or pressured. If you are
unable to defecate, try again the next day at the same time. Do not use laxatives, enemas, or suppositories unless your
doctor has prescribed them.


When should I see my doctor?

If you move your bowels fewer than three times a week, and if you feel no desire to defecate, consult your physician.
Abdominal pain, bloating, and other symptoms of fecal impaction require prompt medical attention.

What will the doctor do?
If the feces have become impacted, enemas of warm mineral or olive oil followed by an enema of  hypertonic solution may be tried. If  these fail to stimulate evacuation, manual fragmentation and removal of the fecal mass is necessary. This procedure usually requires applying a local anesthetic ointment, and few people may need general anesthesia.

The course of an inactive colon
The problem may develop gradually and is likely to persist until diet and physical activity change and efforts are made to establish regular bowel movements. Fecal impaction may occur at any time, or it may take place after barium is administered. Instead of feeling no urge to move the bowels, there may be rectal pain and ineffectual, repeated straining. Watery mucus or fecal material may be passed around the impaction, appearing to be diarrhea.

An inactive colon that results as a side effect of certain drugs usually resolves itself after the drugs are stopped.

Is inactive colon dangerous?

It can be, especially if the bowel is, obstructed by impacted feces.

What Can I do to avoid inactive colon?

     Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.
     Consume a variety of high-fiber foods such as whole-grain breads and cereals, fresh fruits,
     and raw or lightly processed vegetables each day.
     Exercise for at least 15 to 20 minutes a day.
     Do not ignore the urge for a bowel movement.
     Avoid taking laxatives unless specially recommended by your doctor.
Atonic constipation- An inactive colon results in a type of constipation that leads to an impacted colon
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An inactive colon results in a type of contipation that often leads to an impacted colon.
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