Diverticulitis is a common disease that affects the digestive system. It occurs when small pouches called diverticulitis develop in the lining of the lower part of the large intestine (colon). When these pockets become infected and inflamed the condition is known as diverticulitis.
There are three different categories to describe diverticulitis:
- Diverticulitis – When diverticulitis form but don’t cause any symptoms.
- Diverticulitis disease – When diverticulitis leads to symptoms.
- Diverticulitis – When the diverticulitis become infected and inflamed leading to illness.
Symptoms of diverticulitis depend on the level of the infection and if there are any complications. Symptoms will settle once the inflammation is controlled.
- Sharp pain in the lower left side of the abdomen (although not always)
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood in stools
Complications of diverticulitis are rare but include:
- Bleeding from the bowel
- An abscess in the abdomen
- A blockage of the colon
- A fistula forming between other organs such as the bladder
- Perforation on the wall of the bowel leading to infection
- Haemorrhage caused by diverticulitis
- Peritonitis – when the abdominal lining becomes infected
Incidence increases with age and people with low-fiber diets are at a higher risk. Vegetarians are less likely to develop the disease as are people from parts of the world where fibre intake is high
Having a small amount of fibre daily is recommended to prevent constipation. Adequate water and regular exercise are also recommended.
Treatment for diverticulitis revolves around clearing the infection, pain relief and preventing complications. Mild attacks can be treated with low-fiber diets, warm water, and low impact exercise to keep the colon moving. Severe attacks need urgent medical attention and sometimes surgery. Options include:
- Intravenous fluids
- Surgery – if weakened sections of the bowel burst or if the infection fails to clear the diseased segment is removed
- Colostomy – if there’s a high degree of infection a colostomy bag may be fitted
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