That feeling you’ve been calling indigestion and gas pain is seeming a bit more serious. The pain is getting worse; you’re breaking out in fever; you’ve been having more and more abnormal bowel movements. The problem may not be in your stomach after all. Diverticulitis is a condition that affects your colon but produces symptoms throughout the digestive tract.
What is Diverticulitis?
Diverticula are small pouches that form in the lining of the colon. The formation of diverticula is a condition called diverticulosis. Diverticulosis is quite common after age 40, and it rarely causes symptoms. Occasionally, however, one or more of the pouches becomes infected or inflamed —this is when diverticulosis changes to diverticulitis. Diverticulosis combined with recurring bouts of diverticulitis is called diverticular disease. Having one condition does not necessarily mean you will develop the other. As many as 80% of people with diverticulosis never get diverticulitis, and many people are able to treat their diverticulitis so as not to get diverticular disease.
Do I Have Diverticu-Something?
Because diverticulosis rarely produces symptoms, most cases of it are found during tests for other medical issues or during routine screenings. Diverticulitis frequently carries with it several signs and symptoms including persistent pain that is commonly felt in the lower abdomen, fever, nausea, and constipation. In cases of severe diverticulitis, vomiting, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding can occur. Liver function tests and stool samples can help to rule out other causes of pain or bleeding, and a CT scan can confirm a diverticulitis diagnosis and determine its severity, which will guide treatment.
What Should I Do?
If you know you have diverticulosis, eating a diet that is rich in fiber will greatly reduce your chances of it turning into diverticulitis. Diets that are low in fiber tend to cause constipation and slow digestion, which can put pressure on the colon and lead to irritation of any diverticula present in the colon. In mild cases of diverticulitis, rest and dietary changes (high in fiber, low in animal fats) have both treated the illness and prevented recurrence and development of diverticular disease. Diverticular disease can cause some serious complications such as fistulas (tears in the organ), blockages, infections that spread, and inflammation of the colon. This is why, in cases of severe diverticulitis or diverticular disease, surgery may be necessary.
If you are experiencing any symptoms, especially if you have ongoing abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, or if you have been diagnosed with one of these illnesses and symptoms have returned, contact Dr. Sameer Islam right away. He can evaluate your situation and make a treatment plan to help prevent further damage or worsening of the disease.