What is Diverticulosis, Diverticulitis, the Symptoms and Treatment?
Diverticulosis is a very common condition of the colon where pockets appear in the colon wall. In most cases there are no symptoms. Diverticulosis describes the existence of these pockets and diverticulitis describes the inflammation or complications of these pockets. This condition afflicts about one half of all Americans by age 60 and nearly all by age 80.
What are the Symptoms of Diverticular Disease?
In uncomplicated cases there are typically no symptoms. The primary symptom in complicated cases is bleeding from the rectum. Diverticulitis – an infection of the diverticula – may cause any of the following symptoms: pain in the abdomen, chills, fever and changes in bowel habits. Serious complications such as a perforation or rupture, an abscess or fistula formation (for example, an abnormal connection between the colon and the skin), will create more intense symptoms.
What causes Diverticular Disease?
Although the exact cause is not known, it is found more commonly in people with a low fiber diet. Over years a low fiber diet can create more pressure on the colon which can create the pockets (diverticula).
How is Diverticular Disease Treated?
Adding fiber to the diet is the simplest treatment as well as reducing certain foods can reduce the pressure on the colon. This can result in decreased risk of complications with diverticular disease. Mild diverticulitis may be managed with antibiotics, dietary management, or stool softeners. In more severe cases the patient is hospitalized and given intravenous antibiotics and dietary restraints. In cases where the patient has recurring attacks or the other treatments do not work, surgery is required. Surgery removes the part of the colon that is diseased. Typically the colon is reattached (anastomosed) to the rectum. Complete recovery is typical in a few weeks. Emergency cases occasionally require a temporary colostomy bag.
Consult your doctor if you begin to experience any abdominal pain or other symptoms in order to avoid more serious complications.