Colorectal manifestations of endocrine disease

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The aim of this review is to alert the colon and rectal surgeon to the colorectal manifestations of endocrine disease.


This report was obtained by a review of the medical literature. Endocrine disease may initially present as a symptom felt to be referable to colorectal disease. Furthermore symptoms of well-established endocrine disorders may have refractory colorectal symptoms.


Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal symptom of diabetics; however, in patients with brittle diabetes, diarrhea may be chronic and intermittent. Unexplained diarrhea, despite an exhaustive work-up for an etiology, should alert the clinician to the possibility of a pancreatic endocrine tumor. Thyroid disorders, depending on activity of the gland, may have refractory constipation, diarrhea, or steatorrhea as the only presenting symptoms. Constipation is a common symptom of hypercalcemia, secondary to hyperparathyroidism. Primary hyperparathyroidism has been associated with increased incidence of malignancies, specifically of colonic origin. In patients with acromegaly a threefold to eightfold increased risk of colon carcinoma or adenomatous polyps is seen. Chronic adrenal insufficiency may present initially as diarrhea and malabsorption. The adrenal gland is a frequent site of metastases from colorectal cancer. Pheochromocytomas may be a cause of occult gastrointestinal bleeding or ischemic colitis.


Unexplained symptoms referable to the colon and rectum should alert the clinician to the possibility of an underlying endocrine disorder.

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