Conditions

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease is a common medical condition that causes small bulges and or sacks to form in the wall of the colon. Diverticular disease encompasses a group of different conditions that relate to the forming of diverticula. This occurrence becomes more prevalent in old age, but the exact cause is unknown. Physicians theorize that diverticula form in weak spots located in the digestive tract as a response to pressure. There are several potential risk factors that can make individuals susceptible to diverticular disease:

  • A diet containing too much animal protein and not enough fiber. This will place additional pressure on the digestive tract during bowel movements, which can cause pouches to form.
  • Frequently a patient’s age can be a factor. Diverticulosis becomes more likely to develop after the age of 40.
  • Patients who are obese are far more likely to be affected.
  • Smoking and not exercising can increase the risk of diverticulosis.

There are still many questions about diverticula. For example, it is unclear why the condition leads to symptoms and complications in some patients, while others don’t experience any discomfort or pain, and may not be aware that they are affected until diagnosed by a physician. Those suffering from chronic or acute diverticulosis may experience several signs and symptoms:

  • Severe, persistent pain on one side of the abdomen, usually lower left
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Change in bowel movements (i.e., constipation or diarrhea)
  • Cramping and bloating

Symptoms of diverticulosis are usually mild when they do occur, but can lead to serious complications when left untreated. In some people, the sacks become inflamed or infected; this can lead to a condition called diverticulitis, which can be more dangerous to the patient’s health. Diverticulitis can also lead to abscesses or blockages in the digestive tract. Another risk associated with diverticulosis is that the blood vessels leading to the pouch can burst, leading to diverticular bleeding.

Depending on how severe the symptoms listed above are, a physician can choose from a range of treatment options. First, a diet low in animal protein and high in fiber and water intake will likely be recommended in addition to any other care. This change in diet will make it easier to pass stool, which will reduce the pressure on the bowels and decrease inflammation. Another method of treatment is a course of antibiotics. During this time, a physician may prescribe a liquid diet to help the colon heal. Over-the-counter pain relief medicine will help manage discomfort in the meantime. If symptoms persist or the condition becomes chronic, a doctor may advise surgery in order to remove the infected part of the colon.

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