Is diverticulitis a serious problem?

Humans are indeed a marvel complex organism. There are many organs and structures that work in a system enabling humans to live and strive. One of the systems known as the digestive system is often associated with consumption of food or drink. There are many diseases that can affect the digestive system and often so be presented in almost the same way which is pain or discomfort in the abdomen. Patients should ask a doctor if they are unsure what is causing the abdominal pain. In this article, we will be learning about diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis is inflammation or infection of a diverticulum. Diverticula are small pouches that bulge outward through the large intestine. This is also known as diverticulosis. Diverticulosis itself is a common condition as people age. It affects one in 10 people aged over 45 years, and about more than half of people over 70 years old.

You probably wonder what diverticulosis have to do with diverticulitis. When the pouches become inflamed or infected, the diverticulosis we used to know is now known as diverticulitis. Diverticulosis itself usually does not cause any symptoms and often can be found accidentally through tests for other conditions such as colonoscopy in cancer screening. Diverticulitis on the other hand is not a normal thing and often causes symptoms making the patient get medical attention.

Diverticulosis is normally caused by a low-fibre diet. With such a diet, patients tend to strain when passing stool. Straining will lead to increased pressure in the abdomen which then causes the weak spots of bowel to bulge out. When the diverticula becomes infected or inflamed by bacteria in the pouch itself, diverticulitis occurs. Diverticulitis occurs in less than 5 out of 100 people who have diverticulosis.

Diverticulitis often causes symptoms that lead to great discomfort in patients. Common symptoms include abdominal pain typically at the left side, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, abdominal cramp, fatigue, decreased appetite, diarrhoea and/or constipation. Pain is typically severe and constant. In severe cases, presence of blood in stool or rectal bleeding can be found. Symptoms may be mild to severe. Due to the fact that there can be many other diseases causing almost the same symptoms such as diverticulitis, it is best for patients to get checked by a doctor so that they can get proper treatment.

While diverticulosis often does not require treatment, diverticulitis is a whole other story. Mild diverticulitis can be treated at home with bowel rest and diet in low fibre or fluid-only diet. Once symptoms subside, patients can return to a higher-fibre diet aiming for about 30 grams of fibre a day. Antibiotics may be prescribed and pain relief medication can be used. If pain becomes severe or bleeding occurs, patients need to get immediate medical advice. In severe diverticulitis, hospitalisation is usually required. Treatments include antibiotics and fluid therapy through the vein to help bowel rest and recover. If conservative treatment is not enough to improve symptoms, surgery is required. Surgery will remove the affected section of the large intestine. This is known as colectomy. After colectomy, patients will be left with temporary or permanent colostomy.

Diverticulitis is indeed a serious problem. When it is left untreated, it can cause complications that can be life-threatening. Complications that is possible in patient with diverticulitis are collection of infected fluid of the intestine wall known as abscess, narrowing of the intestine where the diverticulitis affect (stricture), abnormal connection of the bowel to the nearby organs (fistula) and perforation. A hole in the colon or perforation of the intestine is the most serious complication.

The best way to prevent diverticulosis and diverticulitis is to take preventative measures. High-fibre diet can prevent constipation and prevent formation of diverticula. Those that have a diet high in fibre are less likely to develop diverticulitis. Reducing consumption of red meat may also decrease the likelihood of diverticulitis. Studies show that those with healthy body weight and exercise regularly are less likely to have diverticular issues. Minimising the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce risk for diverticulitis. However, patients that need to use NSAIDs for health conditions such as heart diseases should not stop taking the medication without discussion with doctors.

It can be concluded that diverticular disease is diverticulosis that causes symptoms. Diverticulitis is part of diverticular disease. Diverticulosis is common in the elderly but diverticulitis is not. Symptoms of diverticulitis can be similar to many other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome or coeliac disease. Thus, patients need to get checked by a doctor so the doctor can run additional tests such as blood tests or imaging tests to ensure it is indeed diverticular disease. It is important to treat diverticulitis as it can lead to complications that can be both disabling and deadly for patients. High fibre diet and a healthy lifestyle is the best way to go when it comes to preventing diverticular disease.

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