BRIEF FACTS ABOUT DIVERTICULITIS

Sometimes tiny, bulging pouches (called diverticula) form in the colon. This condition is called diverticulosis. If the pouches become inflamed or infected, this is diverticulitis.

What Causes Diverticula to Form?

The reason diverticula form in the colon is not completely understood. Doctors think diverticula form when high-pressure areas inside the colon push against weak spots in the colon wall. These diverticula are most common in the lower part of the large intestine (called the sigmoid colon).

Symptoms of Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis

People with diverticulosis usually don’t have outward symptoms. Symptoms of diverticulitis are more noticeable. There may be abdominal bloating, pain, and tenderness, typically in the left lower abdomen, plus diarrhea, chills, and a low-grade fever.

What Causes Diverticula to Form?

The reason diverticula form in the colon is not completely understood. Doctors think diverticula form when high-pressure areas inside the colon push against weak spots in the colon wall. These diverticula are most common in the lower part of the large intestine (called the sigmoid colon).

Diverticulosis vs. Diverticulitis

Having diverticulosis is very common and most people never know they have it. Half of all people older than 60 have it. But only 10%-25% of people go on to develop diverticulitis. Diverticulitis typically develops when the pouches that are blocked with waste become inflamed, leading to tears in the bowel wall and infection.

Women Holding Her Stomach

Diverticular Bleeding

When a hole develops between a pouch and a blood vessel, bleeding can happen. This can cause a large amount of blood to suddenly appear in your stool. This condition is usually painless and the bleeding usually stops on its own. But in rare cases, bleeding can be severe enough to require a transfusion or surgery. If you have bleeding, contact your doctor right away.

Fried Chicken with Mac-N-Cheese

What’s Fiber Got to Do With It?

A diet low in fiber is linked to diverticulosis. Researchers aren’t sure why. Adding more fiber to the diet can help prevent constipation and may decrease the risk for painful diverticula in the colon.

Your High-Fiber Choices

Woman Cooking With Fiber Supplement

Luckily, you don’t have to look hard to find an abundance of high-fiber foods. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (dried beans, peas, and lentils). Make smart food choices, including brown rice and whole wheat pasta in place of the regular version. And add extra veggies to your favorite dishes — pizza, stews, and spaghetti sauce. The American Dietetic Association recommends that women get about 25 grams of fiber and men about 38 grams each day.

Treating Diverticulitis

When diverticulitis symptoms — abdominal pain, cramps, and fever — are mild, antibiotics taken by mouth are usually enough. When pain is worse, a clear liquid diet to allow the colon and bowel to recover may also be prescribed. When pain is increasingly severe, or when there is high fever or the inability to drink liquids, a hospital stay may be necessary, along with intravenous antibiotics and not eating or drinking for a few days.

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