Diverticulitis is an infection or inflammation of the pouches in the digestive tract, most commonly affecting the sigmoid colon, which is part of the large intestine.
It typically affects people over the age of 40, but it is not uncommon for a younger person to experience diverticulitis, so testing for diverticulitis has no age limitations.
Complications of diverticulitis could affect nearby organs and emergency surgery is sometimes required if the intestine has ruptured. The most common symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain.
The most common sign is tenderness around the left side of the lower abdomen. If infection is the cause, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping, and constipation may occur as well. The severity of symptoms depends on the extent of the infections and complications.
Most people who suffer from diverticulosis do not have any discomfort or symptoms, however, symptoms may include mild cramps, bloating, and constipation. Other diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers cause similar problems.
These symptoms are not indicative of diverticulosis. The differential diagnosis of diverticulosis includes colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
It also includes a number of urological and gynecological processes. Bleeding from the rectum is also common. Patients are commonly studied with a CT scan, but also barium enema and colonoscopy tests.
A patient with diverticulosis may have few, if any, symptoms. When a diverticulum becomes infected and ruptures, the condition is called diverticulitis. A patient suffering from diverticulitis experiences abdominal pain and tenderness, often accompanied by fever. Bleeding which originates from a diverticulum is called diverticulitis bleeding.
Diverticular disease is common in the Western areas of the world, but is extremely rare in areas such as Asia and Africa. Diverticular disease increases with age and is uncommon before the age of forty. Most patients with diverticulitis develop bleeding, infection, constipation, abdominal cramps, and occasionally, colon obstruction.
More serious complications include diverticulitis, abscess in the pelvis, colon obstruction, and bacterial peritonitis, plus bleeding in the colon. A diverticulum can become infected with bacteria and ruptures, causing diverticulitis. Fever, tenderness, and pain of the lower left abdomen are common symptoms.
Constipation or diarrhea may also occur. A collection of pus can develop around the inflamed diverticulum, which leads to the formation of an abscess, usually in the pelvis. On rare occasions, the inflamed diverticula can erode into the urinary bladder, which causes a bladder infection and passing of gas during urination.
Inflammation of the colon may also lead to bowel obstruction. On rare occasions, a diverticulum ruptures freely into the abdominal cavity causing life threatening infection caused peritonitis.
No screening is available at this time for diverticulitis. Starting at age 40, a procedure called a flexible sigmoidoscopy may be recommended every 3 to 5 years or a colonoscopy every 10 years as a screening exam for cancers of the colon and rectum.
Both flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy involve using a flexible tube with a lighted viewing instrument to see inside the large intestine. These exams are often able to reveal diverticula if they are present. Treatment after recovery from an attack of diverticulitis is aimed at preventing another attack.
This treatment may include getting plenty of fluids daily, gradually increasing the amount of fiber in the diet through fruits, vegetables, wheat bran, and the regular use of a fiber supplement. It is also highly recommended that regular doctor visits are conducted to monitor the condition.