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Diverticulitis - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Written by
Dr. Divya Banu M
and medically reviewed by Dr. Jagdish Singh

Published on Dec 11, 2019   -  3 min read



The condition that results in the inflammation or infection of the pouches in the colon wall is called diverticulitis. Learn about its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and more.

Diverticulitis - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Formation of small, bulging pouches in the lining of the digestive system is called diverticula, and is seen especially after 40 years of age. When it gets inflamed or infected, it is known as diverticulitis, and may present with various symptoms. Though it was rare before 20th century, now it has become one of the most common conditions encountered.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms can be categorized from mild to severe and can be either immediate or rapid in onset. The following signs and symptoms can be seen associated with diverticulitis:

1. Constant chronic pain, usually in the left side of the abdomen.

2. Vomiting or nausea.

3. Fever.

4. Chills.

5. Tenderness in the abdomen.

6. Diarrhea or constipation.

Among all these, abdominal pain is the most common which is experienced in lower left abdomen. But chances are there it may develop on the right side. You need to immediately contact your physician in case you observe vomiting or blood in the stool as it may indicate some serious complication.

How Is It Caused?

When there is excessive pressure application on weak areas of colon, this may develop as protrusion through colon wall.

The risk factors include the following:

1. Increases with age.

2. Overweight.

3. Smoking.

4. No or less exercise.

5. High fat and low fiber diet.

6. Medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, opioids, etc.

How Can This Be Diagnosed?

The diagnosis usually happens during an acute attack. Abdominal pain has various causes and proper examination is required to rule out the possible causes. The physician will initially take a detailed case history followed by physical examination where the abdomen will be examined for tenderness. Then, the following tests will be done for confirmation:

1.Blood and urine tests: This will help to check for infection.

2.Pregnancy test: As abdominal pain can be associated with pregnancy also.

3.Liver enzyme test: To check for liver disorders.

4.Stool test in patients with diarrhea.

5.CT scan to check for severity and location of the condition along with treatment plan.

6.Colonoscopy to examine the gastrointestinal tract.

It can be noted that more than 75% of patients with diverticulitis are uncomplicated, whereas the rest may have some complications.

How Can It Be Treated?

The physician decides the treatment based on the severity of the condition related with signs and symptoms.

1. Uncomplicated diverticulitis:

Mild symptoms can be managed at home and you will be prescribed with antibiotics to cure the infection, a liquid diet for a short duration till the bowel heals, and over-the counter analgesics.

2. Complicated diverticulitis:

A severe attack or association with other health issues will need hospitalization and the treatment usually involves antibiotics given intravenously, and drainage of abdominal abscess (if present) by inserting a tube.

3. Surgical management:

This might be required when there is a severe complication like formation of fistula, frequent episodes of diverticulitis, or an immunocompromised patient.

The two types of surgery followed are primary bowel resection where in the damaged or infected segments of the intestine are removed and the healthy segments are joined, or bowel resection with colostomy in which the colon is removed and an opening in the abdominal wall is joined to the healthy part of the colon.

What Are the Complications?

Almost 25% of the patients tend to develop complications which are as follows:

1.Abscess: It is a cavity filled with pus due to infection.

2.Colon blockage, small intestine blockage.

3.Fistula. It is a connection between two organs or an organ and skin. It is an abnormal condition.

4.Peritonitis. It has to be noted that peritonitis is an emergency condition and needs immediate medical attention.

What Are the Ways to Prevent It?

Prevention of diverticulitis is possible using the following methods:

1.Regular exercise. It helps in maintaining normal functioning of the bowel and thus, leads to reduction in pressure within the colon.

2.Fibrous food consumption. Fresh fruits and vegetables and other fibrous foods helps in softening the waste material and assists in easy passage of it through the colon.

3.Consumption of adequate fluids.

4.Intake of adequate vitamin D.

5. Avoid smoking.

What Is the Difference Between Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis?

Presence of diverticula without any infection or inflammation is called as diverticulosis.

In most of the cases, diverticulosis does not show any symptoms, and in that case, treatment is not required. Although, in some cases, it may show some symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating sensation. This condition is called as symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease. Facts show that a few of people suffering from symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease eventually may develop diverticulitis.


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Last reviewed at:
11 Dec 2019  -  3 min read




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