Thickening of the colon wall may indicate a health concern. This can include neoplastic, infectious, or inflammatory conditions. In rare cases, colon wall thickening can be due to colon cancer.

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The colon is the longest section of the large intestine. It separates food into necessary materials and stools.

Colon wall thickening is not usually a cause for concern but may indicate a health condition affecting the colon. Diseases affecting the colon are common in the United States.

These conditions can reduce a person’s quality of life and increase the risk of developing other diseases. However, people can manage their symptoms and conditions with suitable treatment and guidance from medical professionals.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between a normal vs. abnormal thickness of a colon wall, what a thickening colon wall may indicate, detecting it, and treatment options.

Researchers consider a normal colon wall thickness less than or equal to 3 millimeters (mm). A colon wall thickness of 5 mm or above may be pathological and indicate a health condition.

Studies have shown that colon walls measuring over 20 mm likely has a malignant cause. Measurements between 5 and 20 mm generally show a less serious disease.

Individuals who experience abdominal pain or other symptoms often undergo CT scans. These scans can detect changes in colon wall thickness, which are fairly common.

Colon wall thickening is often a sign of conditions, such as:

Keep reading below to learn more about the specific causes.

In most cases, colon wall thickening is not a sign of a life threatening condition.

Although only a doctor can make an accurate diagnosis, this article examines some of the more well-known causes of colon wall thickening below.

As colon wall thickening has several causes, there is no single treatment to reduce wall thickness. The treatment for each condition varies according to type and severity.

Inflammatory disorders

Inflammatory disorders are a common cause of colon wall thickening. However, a doctor must conduct further tests to identify a specific condition.

Colon wall thickening may also indicate the presence of IBD. IBD refers to conditions that cause long-term inflammation within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two different forms of IBD. These disorders are frequently the cause of colon wall thickening identified in individuals experiencing abdominal pain.


People with IBD may take different medications designed to reduce inflammation, including:

Lifestyle changes, such as dietary modifications or surgery, may also help reduce or manage symptoms in the long term.


Individuals with intestinal ischemia experience inadequate blood flow to the bowel region. The symptoms of ischemia vary but often include:

Chronic ischemia is more common in females and older individuals. People who experience long-term ischemia may exhibit weight loss and dull pain in the abdominal area.

In mild cases of ischemia, the colon wall may thicken only slightly. In more severe cases, the wall may thicken up to 15 mm. This colon wall thickening may result from bleeding or swelling within the colon.

Acute bowel ischemia involves an injury to the bowel that disrupts blood supply. This condition primarily affects older people and has a high mortality rate, especially if left untreated.

A CT scan can help diagnose both chronic and acute ischemia. Doctors will use the scan to observe changes in blood vessels and the colon wall for people with suspected ischemia.


Treatment for ischemia often includes intravenous (IV) fluids.

These fluids can help boost blood pressure to keep nutrients traveling to the intestines. Doctors insert an IV catheter into a blood vessel, which also helps restore blood flow in individuals with this condition.


Gastrointestinal (GI) tract infections may also the colon wall to thicken. For example, enteritis and colitis can both cause wall thickening.

Traveling to new places or drinking unsanitary water can increase the risk of developing enteritis. People with this condition may experience:

Colitis affects the colon alone; enteritis refers to an inflammation that affects the small intestine, and enterocolitis affects the small intestine and the colon.

Viral or bacterial infections may cause colitis, leading to colon damage if untreated.

Studies have shown that enteritis causes only mild colon wall thickening. On the other hand, colitis can cause more considerable wall thickening.

Another infection known as intestinal tuberculosis (ITB) can cause symptoms similar to Crohn’s disease. In ITB, the tuberculosis bacteria invade the GI region. This can cause symptoms such as:

  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • abdominal discomfort

Like IBD, ITB can lead to colon wall thickening.


To treat enterocolitis, doctors aim to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Some infections may also require a prescription medication to fully clear them up.

For ITB, the usual treatment is anti-TB drugs or surgical procedures.

A 2018 study demonstrated that after 3 months of intestine anti-TB treatment, people showed significant improvements in the following symptoms:

Neoplastic conditions

Sometimes, a thickened colon wall may indicate the presence of a neoplasm. A neoplasm occurs when a group of cells grows abnormally fast. These cells come together to form tissues that may be cancerous or noncancerous.

According to 2020 research, these small growths are uncommon.

A 2020 detected that the neoplasia rate was 19.6% in people with colon wall thickening.

Benign, or noncancerous, neoplasms are even rarer. However, benign neoplasms can become cancerous over time.


Sometimes, doctors recommend removing the tumor.

Possible procedures may include the following surgeries:


2020 research showed that 14–27% of people with colon wall thickening reported colon cancer.

Colorectal carcinoma (CRC) is the fourth most frequent cause of death by cancer across the world.

Individuals with CRC may show colon wall thickening on imaging tests. They may also have inflammation or growth within the colon.

Growths within the colon can take up to 15 years to become cancerous. Regular screening tests with a trusted professional can help catch colon cancer early and maximize the chance of recovery.


Colon cancer may require more intensive treatment, depending on the stage of the disease.

Treatments for this condition include:

Analysis of the GI tract using CT scanning is the most common way to spot colon wall thickening. A doctor may also order a GI endoscopy if they suspect colon wall thickening. A more in-depth colonoscopy can help determine the reason for the changes.

Ultrasound tests are particularly useful for diagnosing colon wall thickening in children. Medical professionals can conduct further tests if an ultrasound indicates a thickened bowel wall. These tests can diagnose conditions such as IBD or immune conditions in children.

Although imaging tests can show colon wall thickening, diagnosis depends on further tests and analyses. For example, new research on texture analysis shows promise for future diagnoses.

Analyzing the texture of different tissues during a CT scan can help doctors diagnose the cause of colon wall thickening. This could help them distinguish conditions such as CRC from IBD or normal GI changes.

In many cases, colon wall thickening is not always a cause for alarm. Colon wall thickness varies between individuals, so it is likely normal to have some degree of thickening.

Routine infections can respond quickly to antibiotic treatments. Inflammatory disorders may need lifelong management, but people with IBD can lead full and active lives with suitable care.

Anyone experiencing unusual abdominal symptoms should visit a medical professional. A doctor can perform an in-depth analysis, recommend a treatment plan, and discuss the outlook.

Colon wall thickening can indicate several health conditions. Although colon wall thickening may seem alarming, it is not always a sign of serious illness.

Possible causes include neoplastic, inflammatory, infectious, or ischaemic conditions.

A medical professional can diagnose adults can identify colon wall thickening through a CT scan. They may then conduct further tests, such as endoscopy or colonoscopy.

A person should speak with a doctor to learn more about colon wall thickening and treatment options.