Toxic megacolon: 6 alarming signs and symptoms of this life-th.r.e.a.t.e.n.i.n.g condition
Not only does toxic megacolon have a unique (and terrifying) name, I’d never heard of it before!
Although it’s not very common, toxic megacolon can be life-threatening — especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Read below to learn more about the signs and symptoms of toxic megacolon
What Is Toxic Megacolon?
Because toxic megacolon is relatively rare, many people don’t know what it is.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Toxic megacolon occurs when swelling and inflammation spread into the deeper layers of your colon. As a result, the colon stops working and widens. In severe cases, the colon may rupture.”
What Causes Toxic Megacolon?
Toxic megacolon can be caused by a number of things.
Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that “It is a complication of severe colon disease or infection.”
It can also be caused by ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease that isn’t controlled well.
One of the most obvious symptoms of toxic megacolon is a distended abdomen.
Because the colon widens rapidly, it can cause the abdomen to swell up larger than usual.
Often, toxic megacolon will also cause severe abdominal pain.
Sometimes this abdominal pain will be accompanied by distention, but not always.
Because toxic megacolon is sometimes caused by infection, you may experience a fever along with your other symptoms.
Anytime you have a fever, you should keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t something more serious — this is no exception.
Rapid Heart Rate
The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that if the colon ruptures, one of the symptoms may be rapid heart rate.
If your heart speeds up out of nowhere, you should take note and consider telling someone nearby. If it doesn’t quickly return to normal, call your doctor.
If your colon ruptures, it can also lead to septic shock.
Shock occurs “when a bodywide infection leads to dangerously low blood pressure,” explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Shock can present itself in many ways, including light headedness, restlessness, shortness of breath, and cool, pale arms and legs.
Finally, diarrhea is another symptom of toxic megacolon.
Because this is the most normal symptom, you may not even recognize that something is going on — always pay attention to when you have diarrhea and try to keep track of it to see how long it lasts.
When To See A Doctor
If you have any of the above symptoms, or any combination of the above symptoms, tell your medical care provider.
Seek immediate medical attention if you have severe abdominal pain, especially with fever, abdominal tenderness, rapid heart rate, and bloody or frequent diarrhea.