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Diverticula refer to those pouches that tend to form in the lining of the intestine, especially in the large intestine. When these pouches get inflamed or infected the condition is known as diverticulitis.


Symptoms of diverticulitis

The tell tale symptom of diverticulitis is pain in lower left hand side of the stomach along with tenderness. This can last for a few hours to several days.
Other symptoms associated with diverticulitis are:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High fever and chills
  • Lack of appetite
  • Bowel changes- diarrhea or constipation


Causes of diverticulitis

The pouches are not problematic unless they get inflamed or infected. The reasons are:

  • Pressure on colon due to hardening of stool. The risk factor is- diet rich in animal meal and lack of fiber.
  • Entrapment of feces in the pouches as colon becomes weak with age
  • Side effects of steroids, NSAIDs, etc. 
Some risk factors are lack of physical activity and smoking. Diverticulitis usually occurs in people above 40 years of age.


Complications of diverticulitis

Diverticulitis requires treatment and if not treatment it can cause the following complications:

  • Formation of abscess or pus in pouches
  • Development of scar tissue in colon
  • Fistula and bowel obstruction
  • Inflammation of peritoneum


When to see a doctor

Diverticulitis usually gets diagnosed when abdominal pain flares up. If you experience pain in your stomach then make sure you visit a doctor.


Diagnosis of diverticulitis

Your doctor will observe the symptoms and feel your stomach for tenderness.

If diverticulitis has been suspected then you need to undergo x ray and ultrasound in the abdomen and CT scan of the colon to confirm the infection and severity of diverticulitis. Additionally, you have to undergo CBC test as well.

Since the symptoms resemble liver infection and pelvic disease as well, you doctor suggest specific tests like pelvic examination (for women), stool tests and liver function tests to rule out any other disease.


Treatment of diverticulitis

The treatment depends on the severity of the infection and the patient’s age. First line of treatment involves healing the infection with antibiotics and OTC pain killer to control abdominal pain.

Your doctor will give you a special diverticulitis diet which involves consumption of liquid food for a certain period of time, then moving on to soft food and then getting back to normal diet once the infection is resolved.

If your condition is severe, then you will be retained in the hospital for treatment which involves intravenous administration of antibiotics, intravenous nutrition and managing other symptoms like draining abscess from the pouches with medical techniques.

Patients having recurring attacks of diverticulitis or with severe inflammation or those who have failed to show improvement with the aforementioned procedures might require surgery. Bowel resection and colostomy are some of the approaches to treat diverticulitis.


Home care for diverticulitis

  • Your doctor will give you several instructions regarding post operative care and post operative lifestyle to help to lead normal life after surgery.
  • Make sure you are exercising- walking, jogging or performing yoga once you have recovered completely from the surgery
  • Your doctor will advise you to cut down animal milk and incorporate healthy fibers like fruits and vegetables in order to reduce stressing your colon
  • Apart from this, you have to give up smoking and limit alcohol consumption to reduce your risk of recurrence.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: November 07, 2014