Signs and symptoms of ischemic colitis can include:

  • Pain, tenderness or cramping in your belly, which can occur suddenly or gradually
  • Bright red or maroon-colored blood in your stool or, at times, passage of blood alone without stool
  • A feeling of urgency to move your bowels
  • Diarrhea

The risk of severe complications is higher when you have symptoms on the right side of your abdomen. That's because the arteries that feed the right side of your colon also feed part of your small intestine. When blood flow is blocked on the right side of your colon, it's likely that flow is blocked to part of your small intestine as well. Pain tends to be more severe with this type of ischemic colitis.

Blocked blood flow to the small intestine can quickly lead to death of intestinal tissue (necrosis). If this life-threatening situation occurs, you'll need surgery to clear the blockage and to remove the portion of the intestine that has been damaged.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical care if you have sudden, severe abdominal pain. Abdominal pain that makes you so uncomfortable that you can't sit still or find a comfortable position is a medical emergency.

Contact your doctor if you develop worrisome signs and symptoms, such as bloody diarrhea. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent serious complications.

Oct. 10, 2012