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Diverticulitis


Diverticulitis is small, bulging sacs or pouches of the inner lining of the intestine (diverticulosis) that become inflamed or infected. Most often, these pouches are in the large intestine (colon).


Causes

No one knows exactly what causes the sacs, or pouches of diverticulosis to form. Eating a low-fiber diet is one of the most likely causes.


People, who eat mostly processed food, as many Americans do, are not able get enough fiber in their diet. Processed foods include white rice, white bread, most breakfast cereals, crackers, and pretzels.


As a result, constipation and hard stools are more likely to occur - causing people to strain when passing stools. This increases the pressure in the colon or intestines and may cause these pouches to form.


Diverticulosis is very common. It is found in more than half of Americans over age 60.


Diverticulitis is caused by small pieces of stool (feces) that become trapped in these pouches, causing infection or inflammation


Symptoms

People with diverticulosis often have no symptoms, but they may have bloating and cramping in the lower part of the belly. Rarely, they may notice blood in their stool or on toilet paper.

Symptoms of diverticulitis are more severe and often start suddenly, but they may become worse over a few days. They include:

  • Tenderness, usually in the left lower side of the abdomen
  • Bloating or gas
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Treatment

The treatment of diverticulitis depends on the severity of your symptoms. Some people may need to be in the hospital, but usually you can treat this problem at home.

To help with the pain, your doctor may suggest that you:

  • Rest in bed and possibly use a heating pad on your belly
  • Take pain medicines (ask your doctor which ones you should use).
  • Drink only fluids for a day or two, and then slowly begin drinking thicker liquids and then eating foods.

The doctor may treat you with antibiotics.

After you are better, your doctor will suggest that you add more fiber to your diet and avoid certain foods. Eating more fiber can help prevent future attacks. If you have bloating or gas, reduce the amount of fiber you eat for a few days.

Once these pouches have formed, you will have them for life. If you make a few simple changes in your lifestyle, you may not have diverticulitis again.

Surgery

If symptoms of diverticulitis persist, or the patient does not respond to antibiotics and resting the colon, the doctor may advise surgery. The surgeon may recommend a partial colectomy to remove the affected part of the colon and join the remaining sections. This procedure aims to prevent complications and future diverticulitis. The doctor may also recommend surgery for complications such as a fistula or partial intestinal obstruction.

If the patient has additional complications, such as, perforation, a large abscess, intestinal obstruction, severe bleeding or peritonitis, immediate surgery may be necessary. In these cases, two surgeries may be needed because it is not safe to rejoin the colon right away.


To learn more about Diverticulitis, click here

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