Diverticulitis

A pouch that forms in the wall of the large intestine is called a diverticulum. When this pouch becomes infected or swollen, it is called diverticulitis.

  • Causes

    It is not clear why the pouches form. It may be due to a constant build up of pressure when food moves too slowly through the bowel. This pressure increases and pushes along the sidewalls of the bowel creating pouches. Digested food or stool can become trapped in one of the pouches. This leads to swelling and infection.

    The following may contribute to diverticulitis:

    • Low-fiber diet—Fiber softens stools and makes them pass through the bowel more easily
    • Increased pressure in the bowel from straining to pass a hard stool
    • Defects in the colon wall

    • Chronic
      constipation

  • Definition

    A pouch that forms in the wall of the large intestine is called a diverticulum. When this pouch becomes infected or swollen, it is called diverticulitis.

    Diverticulitis
    diverticulitis
    Infected pouches along the colon.
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and rectal exam will be done. Finding the disease early is important. The pouch can break, releasing stool into the abdomen. This is a medical emergency that requires surgery.

    Tests may include:


    • Your bodily fluids and waste products may be tested. This can be done with:

      • Stool sample analysis
      • Blood tests

    • Images may need to be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

      • X-rays
      • CT scan
      • Ultrasound

    After the inflammation subsides, other tests may be performed to examine the colon, including:

    • Barium enema
    • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
    • Colonoscopy

  • Prevention

    The following recommendations may help prevent diverticulitis by improving the movement of stool through the bowel and decreasing constipation:

    • Eat a balanced, high-fiber diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
    • Drink plenty of water each day
    • Exercise regularly

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of getting diverticulitis include:

    • Eating a low-fiber diet
    • Age: 50 or older
    • Previous episodes of diverticulitis
    • High-meat diet or high-protein diet
    • Chronic constipation
    • Smoking

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms can come on suddenly. They vary depending on the degree of the infection.

    Symptoms include:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Tenderness; usually in the lower left part of the abdomen
    • Swollen and hard abdomen
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Poor appetite
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Both diarrhea and constipation
    • Cramping
    • Rectal bleeding

  • Treatment

    The goals of treatment is to:

    • Resolve the infection and inflammation
    • Rest the bowel
    • Prevent complications

    Treatments include:


    If you are diagnosed with diverticulitis, follow your doctor's
    instructions
    .