Diverticulitis is a condition that occurs when diverticula on the gastrointestinal tract become inflamed or infected. Problems with the diverticula usually stem from a tear within them.
What Are Diverticula?
Diverticula are little pouches that protrude outward from the intestines. These diverticula are harmless, and are even quite common among those over the age of 40. Typically, you will find diverticula forming in the lower end of the large intestine, also called the colon.
Common Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Patients that have been diagnosed with diverticulitis normally report signs and symptoms such as:
- Pain and tenderness of the abdomen, usually lasting for several days
- Nausea and vomiting
It is always advised to seek medical attention if you are experiencing constant pain in your abdomen. This pain could be a warning of many different types of diseases or injuries, all of which require proper diagnosis and treatment by a licensed medical professional.
Adequate rest and antibiotics are often all that is needed to treat cases of diverticulitis that are detected early on, which is what happens a majority of the time. However, you may experience more severe symptoms and complications as the condition worsens over time.
Potential Complications of Diverticulitis
Individuals who are already dealing with an advanced case of diverticulitis are at risk for several serious conditions, including:
- Blockage within the colon or small intestine
- Formation of a fistula
- A collection of pus within the diverticula
- Peritonitis, which will happen if the infected diverticula ruptures and spills its contents into the abdominal cavity
All of these situations can cause the patient’s health to deteriorate quickly, which is why you should see a gastroenterologist at Digestive Health Services as soon as possible if you suspect you may have diverticulitis.
Even though diverticula are common, that does not make them something that you necessarily want to have growing on the walls of your intestine. In order to keep these diverticula from forming and leading to diverticulitis, you should:
- Manage a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
- Add more fiber to your everyday diet.
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid smoking, as smokers are twice as likely to develop diverticulitis.
- Pay attention to potential side effects of any new medication you begin to take, especially when it comes to opiates, steroids, and NSAIDs.
What Is the Main Cause of Diverticulitis?
Typically, diverticulitis develops when weak areas in your colon give way under pressure. This causes marble-sized pouches to unnaturally push through, most often, the colon wall.
What Does a Diverticulitis Attack Feel Like?
Most people with diverticulitis report common symptoms of a sharp cramp-like pain, usually on the left side of your lower abdomen. You may experience other symptoms such as fever and chills, nausea, vomiting, and constipation, or diarrhea.
Can Diverticulitis Go Away on Its Own?
Typically, yes. Diverticulitis symptoms don’t last longer than a week for most people. Only rarely is surgery necessary.
How Do People Get Diverticulitis?
This condition forms when weak spots in your intestinal wall balloon are pushed outward which then becomes inflamed and even infected. This can occur when feces or partially digested food blocks the opening of the diverticula.
What Foods Can Trigger Diverticulitis?
Currently, there are no foods known to trigger symptoms of diverticulitis and no special diet has shown to decrease symptoms. However, increasing fiber and decreasing animal fat may help.
Is Walking Good for Diverticulitis?
Several studies suggest that yes, vigorous activities such as walking or running, can reduce symptoms and flare-ups of diverticulitis.
Schedule an Appointment with Digestive Health Services
For further information on treating diverticulitis or if you would like to schedule a consultation or appointment with your physician, contact Digestive Health Services, SC at (630) 434-9312.