What is diverticular disease?
Diverticular disease includes the intestinal disorders called diverticulosis and diverticulitis. The name of both of these conditions comes from the word diverticula, which describes pouches that may form and protrude through weak spots in the lining of the intestines (a single pouch is called a diverticulum). These protrusions frequently occur in the sigmoid colon, at the end of the large intestine.
Diverticulosis means that these pouches have formed in your intestine. In some cases, increased pressure or a tear in a diverticulum can cause these protrusions to become inflamed or infected, a condition called diverticulitis. In some cases, the tear can cause the contents of the colon to spill into the abdomen, leading to a serious infection.
Diverticulosis is extremely common and occurs in half of Americans over the age of 60. Few of these cases progress to diverticulitis. The exact cause of diverticular disease is not known but is thought to be associated with dietary habits, particularly a low-fiber diet (Source: PubMed).
In many cases, diverticulosis does not produce any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they generally include abdominal cramps, bloating, and constipation. Diverticulitis causes symptoms that include abdominal pain (especially in the lower left side), fever, chills, nausea, and bloating. You may experience gas but be unable to pass it or to defecate. Diverticulosis can be treated with monitoring and dietary changes, especially adding more high-fiber foods, but diverticulitis is an infection warranting antibiotics and, possibly, hospitalization and surgery.
Complications of diverticular disease include peritonitis, a serious infection of the abdominal lining. Seek immediate medical (call 911) care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms that suggest peritonitis, including fever and chills, inability to defecate or pass gas, severe abdominal pain, vomiting blood, rectal bleeding, or bloody stool. Seek prompt medical care if you experience symptoms of diverticular disease to prevent its progression to peritonitis or other complications.
What are the symptoms of diverticular disease?
Symptoms of diverticular disease are typically confined to the gastrointestinal tract. If you have diverticulosis, you may not experience any symptoms at all. If present, symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating and constipation. Diverticulitis usually has gastrointestinal symptoms of abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, blo... Read more about diverticular diseasesymptoms
What causes diverticular disease?
Although the exact cause of diverticular disease is unknown, many theories point to a diet low in fiber and high in processed foods. It is much more common in industrialized Western countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where consumption of fiber is low and consumption of fat is high. The occurrence is low in Asia and Africa, where high-fiber diets are more prevalent.
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How is diverticular disease treated?
Treatment for diverticular disease depends on the condition. Symptoms of diverticulosis can usually be alleviated with a dietary change and pain relievers. In addition to adding high-fiber foods, physicians may recommend supplementation with psyllium or methylcellulose, which help counteract constipation.