What to Expect from Diverticulitis Disease

Health Tips
4 mins
What to Expect from Diverticulitis Disease

A diverticulum is a small pouch that often forms in the lining of the digestive system. Diverticula are fairly common, occurring most often in men over 40. Diverticula themselves are common and not a major concern. However, diverticula can sometimes become inflamed or infected. This can cause intestinal pain and other symptoms, and often requires medical attention. This condition is known as diverticulitis disease, or simply, diverticulitis.

What is Diverticulitis Disease?

Diverticula themselves cause no symptoms, or very mild symptoms such as stomach cramps or bloating. However, diverticulitis disease occurs when one or more diverticula become swollen or inflamed.

Diverticula become more common as we age. However, there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing diverticula and diverticulitis. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Heavy consumption of red meat
  • Smoking
  • Inactivity or lack of exercise

Additionally, some medications have been linked to an increased risk of diverticulitis. These include certain steroids and opioids, as well as common anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

As such, the best way to prevent the development of diverticulitis is to avoid its risk factors. Diet, lifestyle, and exercise are all key factors in preventing or treating diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis Symptoms

The most common diverticulitis symptoms are intestinal pain and nausea. Most people report pain in the lower left side of the abdomen when experiencing diverticulitis disease. This is because diverticula are most common in the colon, or lower large intestine. Often, the pain from diverticulitis can start out mild and gradually grow worse over time.

Other diverticulitis symptoms include abdominal tenderness or sensitivity, constipation, or fever.

About 1 in every 4 diverticulitis patient will develop some sort of complication from untreated symptoms. Complications include abscesses, unusual blockages, and potential scarring in the bowels. 

The most serious complication linked to diverticulitis disease is a condition known as peritonitis. This condition occurs when the inflamed diverticulum bursts, which causes intestinal contents to seep into the abdominal cavity. Signs of peritonitis include more severe diverticulitis symptoms, plus vomiting, diarrhea, thirst, loss of appetite, confusion, and fatigue. Peritonitis requires immediate medical attention.

When to Seek Diverticulitis Treatment and Various Treatment Options

Diverticulitis requires an official diagnosis by a doctor. The causes of abdominal pain come from an extremely wide variety of conditions. As such, a doctor must rule out other causes before diagnosing a patient with diverticulitis.

However, you should seek treatment if you experience prolonged or worsening abdominal pain. As mentioned, you are at greater risk of developing diverticulitis if you eat a low-fiber diet, smoke, or do not get enough exercise.

Treatment Options

Diverticulitis treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition. Mild cases of diverticulitis may be treated with antibiotics, or by a prescribed liquid diet. In most cases, mild, or uncomplicated diverticulitis can be treated after 2 to 3 days on a liquid diet.

Treating Severe Cases of Diverticulitis

More severe cases of complicated diverticulitis require more aggressive treatment. Some patients may receive intravenous antibiotic treatment for infections linked to diverticulitis. In cases where an abscess has developed, the abscess needs to be drained in order to treat the infection.

In several cases, diverticulitis treatment can involve surgical procedures. Abscesses, punctured bowel walls, and peritonitis are all diverticulitis complications that may require surgical treatment. Patients may also require surgery if they repeatedly suffer from uncomplicated diverticulitis episodes, or have a weakened immune system.

Choose BASS Medical Today

In all cases, it is best to seek diverticulitis treatment sooner rather than later. If left untreated, uncomplicated diverticulitis can lead to worsening symptoms or complications. Complications from diverticulitis, such as abscesses and peritonitis, are medical emergencies that require immediate attention. 

To learn more about diverticulitis treatment, symptoms, or causes, contact BASS Medical Group.