Diverticulosis is a benign gastrointestinal (GI) condition characterized by the development of small pouches or sacs in the GI tract. These pouches appear most frequently in the large intestine, which is the last portion of the colon, and they commonly occur as we age.
Symptoms and Evaluation of Diverticulosis
By 60 years of age, half of all people have diverticulosis. Most of those affected aren’t even aware they have diverticulosis, and the condition is often first identified during a colonoscopy performed for colon cancer screening or for evaluating the source of lower abdominal discomfort. These pouches can become inflamed, a condition known as diverticulitis, resulting in symptoms including chronic lower abdominal pain and a bloated feeling. The symptoms of diverticulitis are very similar to irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), and colon cancer, so correct diagnosis is essential to ensure proper treatment can be provided. A colonoscopic examination can provide a definitive diagnosis.
The Causes and Care of Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Most people with diverticulosis never develop diverticulitis. What causes an inflammation to develop in some of those with the condition is unknown. A low-fiber diet is believed to play a role in diverticular disease. Consuming more fiber by eating fruits, grains and vegetables – a so-called diverticulosis diet – can be a simple and effective treatment for diverticulosis. For mild diverticulitis attacks, antibiotics and resting the colon can provide relief. If diverticulitis is left untreated, it can cause abscesses or an infection of the lining of the abdominal cavity, possibly requiring hospitalization. If bouts of diverticulitis occur repeatedly, surgery may be required to excise affected portions of the colon.
If you are affected by abdominal discomfort lasting more than a few hours, or if is severe, our board certified specialists are available for same day evaluations.
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