Structural and Functional Disorders of the Colon

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The previous article presented a description of all the different parts of the colon. Of course with an organ this large, there will be numerous disorders associated with it. The disorders of the colon usually result from two different causes. These disorders can be due to a genetic cause or due to the diet or lifestyle of the person affected. The disorders that occur due to a person’s diet or lifestyle might show improvement if a healthier diet or lifestyle is adopted. In certain cases, medication might also be needed to help improve the person’s symptoms.

The disorders that affect the colon are not only divided into whether they have a genetic or lifestyle cause, but are also divided based on the area of the colon that is affected. Therefore, it is possible to describe the disorders as either functional or structural disorders.

The Structural Disorders Of The Colon

To be classified as a structural disorder, the disorder must change the structure of the colon. Thus, the disorder will not necessarily change the way in which the colon can function, but rather how it will look. This is called a “structural colonic disorder.”

The structural disorders of the colon usually occur due to inflammation within the colon at the cellular level. The inflammation can be caused by a primary autoimmune disorder, in which the structural disorder of the colon is secondary, or its cause can be due to the presence of a foreign body, such as a chemical that produces an inflammatory response.

The well-known colonic disorders which are classified as structural disorders include common diseases such as diverticular disease, colitis, hemorrhoids, fissures, and colon polyps.

The Functional Disorders Of The Colon

For a condition to be classified as a functional disorder of the colon, it will need to disrupt the natural function of the colon in some way. If the normal function of the colon is affected, but the actual structure of the colon remains unchanged, then the condition is labeled a “functional colonic disorder.”

These functional disorders usually occur due to either the muscular contractions of the colonic wall being too strong or too weak. Either situation can produce a functional disorder that impedes the colon from working effectively. The well known colonic disorders that are classified as functional disorders include common diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, mucous colitis, and constipation.


Web Source: Center for Neurovisceral Sciences and Women’s Health, University of California at Los Angeles. “About Digestive Disorders.” 2008. Available: