Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis is a common condition that affects an estimated ten percent of Americans over the age of forty. Over time, small pouches in the lining of the colon begin to protrude and bulge out. Most of the time, this condition has no symptoms or adverse effects. If the pouches become infected and inflamed, however, the condition is known as diverticulitis. Up to 10 percent of people with diverticulosis develop diverticulitis.
Diverticulosis usually causes no discomfort or pain. In some instances, this condition can lead to cramps, bloating, and constipation. Diverticulitis, on the other hand, typically causes abdominal pain. One of the hallmarks of this condition is tenderness in the lower left side of the abdomen.
If you experience symptoms of diverticulosis and diverticulitis including persistent cramps, bloating, or constipation, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tabib. He can determine whether or not your symptoms are caused by this common condition and recommend the best course of treatment for you.
Causes of Diverticular Disease
The cause of diverticulosis and diverticulitis disease is unknown, although most doctors attribute it to a low-fiber diet. This is because the condition is much more prevalent in industrialized nations such as the United States, Australia, and England than in the developing world, where processed foods are less prevalent. Processed foods and refined grain products contain little, if any, fiber. Diets high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains tend to make the digestive tract move a lot more smoothly.
Diets lacking in fiber make your solid waste more difficult to pass. Chronic constipation increases pressure within the colon, which many doctors believe to be the cause of the bulging pockets that mark diverticular disease. Maintaining a diet rich in fiber is generally advised for everyone to maintain good digestive health.
Symptoms of Diverticular Disease
Unfortunately, the symptoms of diverticulosis are sometimes indiscernible from other common conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome and stomach ulcers. Diverticulitis is more serious, causing abdominal pain and tenderness. In cases of infection, fever, chills, nausea, constipation, cramps, and vomiting may also present.
If diverticulosis degenerates into diverticulitis, there are numerous complications that can arise. If small blood vessels in the diverticula burst, you may experience bleeding. You may notice blood in your stool if this is the case. If left untreated, infections can lead to abscesses. An abscess is infected tissue that contains pus. If they develop small holes, or perforations, the pus begins to leak. These conditions may clear up with antibiotics. An infection that spreads into the abdominal cavity is known as peritonitis. This condition requires immediate surgery to clear the infected area and remove the damaged tissue.
Infections also lead to scarring. In some cases, these scars can cause a bowel obstruction. This requires surgery in most cases to clear the obstruction. However, partial bowel obstructions are usually not life-threatening, so surgery can be planned in advance.
Treatment for Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
In most cases, increasing your fiber intake can help alleviate the symptoms of Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis. The American Dietetic Association recommends that you get 20 to 35 grams of fiber every day. Eating foods rich in fiber such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is the easiest way to reduce pressure in the colon. Dr. Tabib may also recommend a fiber supplement, such as Citrucel or Metamucil.
Certain foods may also cause inflammation in the diverticula. Doctors used to prohibit all foods containing small seeds for patients with this condition. Now, they only recommend that patients with inflammation avoid nuts, popcorn hulls, and pumpkin, sunflower, caraway, and sesame seeds.
Because diverticulitis is caused by infection and inflammation, antibiotics are usually prescribed to control sudden attacks. Dr. Tabib may also recommend bed rest and a liquid diet. Under certain conditions, surgery may be required to treat the infection.
If you experience the symptoms of a diverticulitis attack, you should seek medical attention to avoid possible complications. Dr. Tabib can diagnose and treat all forms of diverticular disease, no matter how severe. To schedule a consultation with him, contact us today.