Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis is the development of small pouches or projections called diverticula that bulge through weak spots in the colon. When diverticula become inflamed the condition is referred to as diverticulitis. Together, diverticulosis and diverticulitis are considered diverticular disease.
Diverticulosis is a relatively common condition that affects about half of the US population over the age of sixty.
While the exact cause of diverticulosis is unknown, a diet that is low in fiber and high in processed foods like the diet commonly seen in industrialized countries is the most likely culprit.
Individuals that have a family history of diverticular disease are often at an increased likelihood of developing the condition.
Symptoms of Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Many patients with diverticulosis do not experience any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include discomfort in the lower abdomen, bloating or changes in bowel habits. If diverticulosis becomes advanced then the lower colon may become distorted or narrowed, often resulting in thin or pellet-shaped stool.
Diverticulitis is a possible complication of diverticulosis, and may develop as a result of bacteria that seep through the walls of diverticula and cause infection. Possible symptoms of diverticulitis include mild to severe pain in the lower abdomen, nausea, vomiting, cramping, chills and fever.
Diagnosis of Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis is often diagnosed during a routine screening examination. Your doctor may find diverticula during a colonoscopy or a barium enema.
Tests used to diagnose diverticula also include abdominal ultrasound and CT scan.
Treatment for Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
If your gastroenterologist believes that you have diverticulosis or diverticulitis, then you will be provided with detailed information regarding the benefits and possible complications of any treatment options.
For uncomplicated diverticula, changes in dietary habits to increase fiber, rest and possibly pain medication can help relieve symptoms. Your gastroenterologist will provide you with details about any dietary recommendations that may help prevent or reduce your discomfort.