Angiodysplasia of the colon is a very befuddling sounding term which essentially describes a condition of enlarged and fragile blood vessels in the colon that result in occasional loss of blood from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Most often found in older adults, angiodysplasia of the colon is mostly related to the aging and degeneration of the blood vessels.
While various ideas exist about the cause of this condition, many medical professionals feel that the most likely cause is that normal spasms of the colon lead to enlargement of blood vessels in the area. This swelling becomes so severe that a small direct passageway develops between a very small artery and vein. This is called an arteriovenous fistula. It is in this area of the colon wall that the patient is at risk for bleeding.
Angiodysplasia of the colon is its own disorder and should not be confused with cancer or cancerous conditions, conditions or diseases of the blood vessels or Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome or diverticulosis which can also cause intestinal bleeding.
Symptoms of this uncomfortable and often upsetting condition will, of course, vary from patient to patient. Bright red blood from the rectum, nausea and dizziness may indicate anemia due to blood loss and low iron. Fortunately, unlike other digestive and intestinal conditions, there is no pain associated with this condition. Some patients may have dark or black, tarry stools.
Tests that may be done to diagnose this condition include:
Angiography (only useful if there is active bleeding into the colon)
Complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia
Stool guaiac test (a positive test result suggests bleeding from the colon)
Any time there is a condition where blood loss is involved, it is of utmost importance that a diagnostic procedure be used to determine a) what the condition is, b) how much blood has been lost or is regularly being lost and c) what complications (such as anemia) have resulted due to the loss of blood.
The patient's condition must be evaluated continuously and may need to be admitted to a hospital's intensive care unit (ICU).