Diverticulosis is a condition in which small swollen pouches form in the lining of the digestive tract. It is often found in the lower part of the large intestine (colon). Diverticulosis is a common condition, especially after the age of 40, and rarely causes any problems.
However, in some cases, these pouches may become infected or inflamed, which causes a condition known as diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, and fever, as well as a change in bowel patterns.
Mild diverticulitis can be treated by getting plenty of rest, introducing dietary changes and using antibiotics. Severe or recurring diverticulitis may require surgery.
Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Symptoms of diverticulitis may include the following:
- Persistent pain that may last for several days. The pain is usually felt in the lower left side of the abdomen, but it can also occur on the right side of the abdomen where it could be more severe
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
- Acute fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bowel tendencies change, which usually cause constipation or diarrhea in less common cases
You should seek medical help if you feel a constant and unexplained abdominal pain, especially if it is accompanied by fever and constipation or diarrhea.
Causes of Diverticulitis
Diverticula occur when the weak spots in the colon wall give way naturally under pressure. This results in swollen pouches that bulge in the colon wall.
Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula rupture, leading to inflammation, infection, or both.
There are many factors that increase the risk of developing diverticulitis:
- Aging: your chance of developing diverticulitis increases as you get older.
- Being overweight: obesity increases the risk of developing diverticulitis.
- Lack of physical activity: exercising seems to reduce the risk of diverticulitis.
- Diet high in fat and low in fiber: A low-fiber diet combined with a high intake of fat, appears to increase the risk of diverticulitis.
- Smoking: smokers are more likely to develop diverticulitis than non-smokers.
- Some types of medications: Many medications are believed to increase the risk of diverticulitis, including steroids, opioids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Some of these risk factors can be prevented by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle, drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding smoking.
Treatment of Diverticulitis
Treatment depends mainly on the severity of diverticulitis and its signs and symptoms.
If the symptoms are mild, your doctor will likely recommend:
- Antibiotics to treat infections
- Maintaining a liquid diet until your bowel is completely healed. You can gradually add solid food to your diet once your symptoms improve
- Over-the-counter pain killers if needed
- Severe Diverticulitis
If you have a severe case of diverticulitis or other health problems, you will likely need to stay in the hospital. Treatment usually includes:
- Intravenous antibiotics
- Monitoring vital signs
- Inserting a tube to drain an abdominal abscess, in case one has formed
- Surgery may be necessary if you have complications, such as a bowel abscess, fistula, obstruction, a perforation in the bowel wall, or if you have a weakened immune system.
There are two main surgeries to treat diverticulitis:
- Primary bowel resection. The surgeon removes the affected part of your intestine and then reconnects the healthy parts (anastomosis). You may undergo open surgery or laparoscopic surgery depending on the level of inflammation.
- Bowel resection with colostomy. If inflammation is so severe that it is not possible to reconnect your affected tissue, your surgeon will perform a colostomy in which an opening in your abdominal wall is attached to the healthy part of your colon. The waste passes through this opening into a bag. Once the inflammation subsides, the colostomy can be reversed, and the bowel reconnected.
Book your appointment in Novomed today!
To book an appointment with one of our board-certified colorectal surgeons or to know more about diverticulitis, call us toll-free on 8006686 or click the live chat icon at the bottom of the screen.