Diverticulosis is when small pouches or sacs are formed in the lining of the large intestine or colon. These pouches or sacs are first formed and then later get infected and this is called as diverticulitis. This can be very painful. This is mostly formed anywhere in the digestive track, but it is most commonly formed in the large intestine. Diverticulitis can cause pain in the left abdomen which can be combined with rectal bleeding. Diverticulosis can be treated but there are chances of this disease to reoccur.
What are the causes of diverticulitis?
There is no specific cause for diverticula, but eating a diet that is low in fiber is one of the factors that cause formation of the pouches. When one eats food with fiber and keeps oneself well hydrated the stools get soften and are easier to pass. When one eats food that is low in fiber it can lead to constipation and in such a case a lot of pressure has to be put while passing motions. Doctors and experts are of the belief that too much pressure on the colon can lead to diverticula.
Who are more at the risk of developing diverticulitis?
Low Fiber in diet:
People who do not eat enough of fiber rich food are at a greater risk of developing diverticulitis. Not eating enough fiber containing food is a common problem in countries where people consume more of processed food like in the United States.
One must eat fiber supplements and fresh vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains. On an average a person must consume at least 20 – 25 grams of fiber in a day.
Constipation puts a lot of pressure on the muscles while passing stools. And continuous pressure increases the chances of diverticula. Once diverticula are developed, there are more chances of it getting inflamed or infected which can cause diverticulitis.
Obesity increases the chances of developing diverticulitis. As per s research it is found that people with very high body mass and waist circumference are more at risk of getting diverticular bleeding and diverticulitis.
People who are above the age of 60 are more at risk of developing diverticulitis since with age the bowel movement gets weakened.
What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?
Pain on the lower left abdomen is the most common sign of diverticulitis. This pain can occur suddenly and the intensity of the pain will increase over a period of time. The other symptoms of the disease are given below;
- Pain and sensitivity on the lower left side if the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal Bleeding
When to take an appointment with the doctor?
A person must seek immediate medical care if he/she is suffering from the following symptoms;
These symptoms do not necessarily indicate that the person is suffering from diverticulitis disease, but such symptoms need to be immediately checked by the doctor. The doctor will then be able to conduct the required tests to diagnose the disease and confirm the cause of these symptoms.
How can diverticulitis be diagnosed?
The doctor will make a note of the symptoms experienced by the patient and ask about his/her medical history. Post this the doctor will conduct a physical examination on the patient. The doctor may suggest a stool test to check for blood in the stool and a blood test to check if the white blood cell count is more than normal which may indicate that there is an infection.
The doctor may also suggest a CT scan to check the infected diverticula.
How is diverticulitis treated?
Basis the condition of the patient the doctor will recommend if the disease can be treated at home or will require the patient to be admitted in the hospital.
Treatment at home:
- Bed rest depending upon the condition of the patient will vary for either few days or weeks
- Liquid diet to give time for the diverticula to heal
- Certain antibiotic medication prescribed by the doctor to cure the infection
Treatment at the hospital:
If the patient has certain complication then the doctor will suggest to get admitted in the hospital for treatment. The complication can be blockage in the bowels or pus formation in the sac. In the hospital the patient will receive intravenous antibiotics and if there is pus formation in the sac it will be drained out with a needle.
The hospital treatment process may take a day or two and at times the patient may have to stay for longer if there are complications so that the doctor can closely monitor the status of the patient and give necessary treatment. Complete recovery post coming from the hospital may take couple of weeks and it also depends on the lifestyle pattern and diet followed by the patient.
At times diverticulitis keeps recurring or the infection does not respond to the antibiotic treatment. In such cases the doctor will suggest a surgery in which the portion of the intestine which consists of the infected diverticula is removed. Post the surgery the patient will have to stay in the hospital for few days or weeks.
What are the preventive measures post the treatment?
In most of the cases the diverticulitis treatment is successful and does not lead to any complications. But diverticula, remains in the intestine and there is a possibility diverticulitis to reoccur. Certain lifestyle changes and diet plan can prevent the re occurrence of this disease.
It is advisable to drink a lot of water and add fiber containing food to the diet to avoid constipation. It is always good to monitor how the body responds to different kind of food the person is taking. As per a research it is suggested that women should have at least 20- 25 grams of fiber and men should have 30 – 38 grams of fiber per day.
Fruits and vegetables that contain fiber are given below:
- sweet potatoes with the skin
- black & kidney beans
- whole grains or cereals
One must go to the bathroom when he/she feels the urge to pass motion without holding on for too long. While increasing the wait the motion gets harder and increases the pressure in the bowels
Also one must exercise for around 30 minutes every day to avoid the development of diverticulitis. Exercising helps to reduce the pressure in the bowels and helps smooth bowel movement.