According to the research published in PubMed in 2011, the diverticular disease affected 45% of the individuals in the study sample. There was a significant rise in the prevalence of diverticular disease when compared to two barium enema investigations conducted in Singapore two decades earlier.

diverticular disease

What is diverticular disease?

Diverticular disease is an infection in the small pouches found in certain people’s intestines, known as diverticula. These pouches, or diverticula, protrude from weak places in your intestines. They can become infected or inflamed (red and swollen).

Diverticular disease encompasses these two health issues:

  • Diverticulosis: The existence of diverticula does not cause difficulties or complications. Diverticulitis, perforation (the production of holes), stricture (a constriction of the colon that does not allow stool to move smoothly), fistulas (an improper connection or tunneling between bodily organs), and bleeding can all result from the condition.
  • Diverticulitis: A sac perforation contributes to an inflammatory disorder of the colon. A diverticulitis episode can cause a number of subsequent symptoms, which is understood as complex diverticulitis.

Symptoms of diverticular disease

Diverticulosis

Diverticulosis does not usually generate any noticeable symptoms. However, some individuals claim:

  • Tenderness in the afflicted region.
  • Mild stomach cramps
  • Bloating or swelling
  • Constipation.

Experiencing one or more of these symptoms does not always imply you have diverticulosis. These symptoms also appear in irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, appendicitis, gallstones, and stomach ulcers.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis symptoms include:

  • Pain, soreness, or sensitivity in your lower left abdomen. Pain, which is the most common sign, might be minor and gradually worsen over time, or it can strike quickly.
  • Fever.
  • Vomiting and/or nausea
  • Chills.
  • Lower abdominal cramps.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Rectal hemorrhage occurs.

diverticular disease

Causes of diverticular disease

Diverticular disease is characterized by tiny bulges (diverticula) in the large intestine that forms and become inflamed. Diverticulitis symptoms occur when any of the diverticula get infected.

The actual cause of diverticula is unknown. However, a lack of fiber may lead to this condition. Fiber softens and expands your feces, requiring less pressure from your large intestine to push them out of your body.

The strain of transporting hard, tiny feces through your big intestine causes weak patches in the muscle’s outer layer. The inner layer (mucosa) can then squeeze through these weak places, resulting in diverticula.

Additionally, some factors tend to enhance your chance of acquiring diverticular disease:

  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Having a history of constipation
  • Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Having a family relative with diverticular disease

Diagnosis

Doctors assess your medical history, do a physical exam, and prescribe tests to identify the diverticular disease.

In certain situations, doctors may find pouches in the colon wall while doing another test, such as x-rays or a colonoscopy. If you have pouches in your colon wall but no other symptoms, your doctor may suspect diverticulosis rather than diverticular disease.

Physical examination

Your doctor may examine your blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, your abdomen for pain or lumps, and listen for noises in your abdomen with a stethoscope. Moreover, the physical exam may include a digital rectal exam.

Blood test

A health care practitioner will draw blood from you and send it to a lab and use blood tests to look for evidence of diverticulitis or its consequences.

Stool test

A stool test may determine whether you have the diverticular disease or another health concern, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Your doctor will provide you with a container for collecting and storing a stool sample.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy or scope, which is a long, flexible, thin tube with a light and a small camera on one end, allows for examining the rectum and colon lining. A doctor will recommend a colonoscopy to confirm a diverticular disease diagnosis, screen out other illnesses, and detect as well as treat diverticular bleeding.

Diverticular disease treatments

Surgery 

Surgery is normally done only after an episode of inflammation has resulted in an abscess surrounding the colon or infection from the inflamed perforated diverticulum has spread further extensively throughout the abdomen. The widely used procedure involves removing the portion of the intestine containing the infected pockets. The bowel content enters the bag by one end of the stoma, which is pulled up to the skin. In most cases, this may be rectified later if the inflammation is not too severe and the gut can be reconnected.

Surgery includes two types:

  • Resection of the primary bowel: The surgeon eliminates damaged intestinal segments and then reconnects the good segments (anastomosis). This enables you to have regular bowel motions. You may have open surgery or a less invasive (laparoscopic) technique depending on the extent of the inflammation.
  • Resection of the bowel with a colostomy: If the inflammation is so severe that rejoining your colon and rectum is impossible, the surgeon will perform a colostomy. A hole in your abdominal wall (stoma) connects to the healthy section of your colon. Waste is deposited into a bag through the aperture. The colostomy may be reversed and the colon rejoined once the irritation has subsided.

Medications

There is no particular medical therapy for the typical symptoms of diverticular disease. However, if you experience constipation, your pharmacist or doctor may consider whether using a bulk-forming laxative would help. You should avoid codeine-based pain relievers since they tend to exacerbate and can even induce constipation. A pharmacist can advise on alternative treatments for stomach discomfort. For diverticulitis, your doctor may take a wait-and-see approach, although antibiotics may have a damaged immune system or other significant long-term problems. Inform your doctor right away if your symptoms worsen in this circumstance.

Prevention

It is important to have regular bowel movements and avoid constipation and straining to prevent diverticular disease and its consequences. Therefore, you should:

Add more fiber to your meal

Fiber draws more water into the stool, making it thicker, softer, easier, and faster to travel through your colon.

diverticular disease

Drink more water

Because fiber absorbs more water, you’ll need to drink extra water to keep your stool soft and moving. Hence, many doctors recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should drink 80 ounces of water every day.

Exercise regularly

Physical activity aids in the passage of food through your digestive system. If possible, exercise for 30 minutes on most days.

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