Diverticulitis is a disease that is characterized by the formation of pouches (diverticula) and inflammation in them in the descending colon. It is a gastrointestinal disease that typically includes lower abdominal pain with the sudden onset. When the pouches in the large intestine are not inflamed, the disease is known as the diverticulosis. The inflammation that occurs in diverticulitis may be due to any bacterial infection. In this disease, blood may be present in the stool that further intensifies the situation. It may also cause nausea, fever, constipation and diarrhea. This disease may include its risk factors as smoking, obesity, inactivity and the family history of the disease. This disease may also occur in the whole GIT but most common at the end of large intestine. This article discusses the symptoms, complications, causes, diagnosis and treatment of this disease.
You may not diagnose the diverticulitis even if you have with only its symptoms because the diverticulosis is usually painless and may cause only few symptoms. They may include:
- Bright red bloody stool
- Cramping on the lower left side of the abdomen that may disappear after passing out stool and gas.
- The diverticulitis may be chronic or acute.
Acute diverticulitis may show some of the symptoms of the disease with some sort of infection and inflammation.
In chronic diverticulitis, there may not be the inflammation or infection but this state may result in the bowel destruction that may cause:
- Thin stools
- Abdominal pain
If the abdominal pain persists, the person may experience nausea and vomiting.
If it is left unchecked, it may require surgery in future if the Diverticulitis manifests the following complications:
Scarring: it is a condition that may lead to the blockage of the intestine or intestinal stricture.
Abscesses: in this condition the diverticula may be filled with puss and het inflamed. They mainly occur in the infected diverticula. If the abscesses spread in the intestinal wall, the person may develop peritonitis and the condition may be severe and fatal requiring immediate treatment.
Fistulas: such condition occurs when the diverticula get inflamed to such size that they reach another organ making a connection between them. It occurs mostly between the large intestine and the bladder and less commonly between the large intestine and skin or vagina. The fistula formation between the bladder and intestine may lead to the kidney infection.
Severe bleeding: excess blood may be passed out in the stool leading to blood transfusion.
The causes of the diverticula are uncertain and poorly understood. About 60% of this disease may be due to environmental factors and 40% may be due to genes. The one that may be considered one of its causes is:
It has been said that the frequent intake of low fiber diet may render your large intestine weak and unhealthy may be susceptible to a large number of infections. There is also no strong evidence about this hypothesis that the diet rich in fiber may be the preventive measure for this disease. But there are many risk factors that if controlled may lower the severity:
The risk factors may intensify the situation further and may include:
- Lack of physical activity
- Arterial hypertension
- Lower levels of vitamin D may also be the risk factor of diverticulitis.
The diverticulitis is diagnosed by many methods but the CT scan is considered the 98% accurate method for the diverticulitis diagnosis.
- For more access to the patient’s condition, transverse images are taken through different angles for a thin section of about 5mm. The other diagnostic measures may include:
- Blood tests
- Lower gastrointestinal series
The treatment of the diverticulitis may include:
It has been found that the high fiber diet may heal the situation but there are no strongly supporting evidences. Probiotics, the healthy intestinal microflora, may be useful for treatment.
Antibiotics are recommended for routine use when the condition reaches the chronic state that when it is characterized by the fistulas, abscess, intestinal ruptures, and peritonitis.
When a person develops the fistula, abscesses and peritonitis, it is an indicator of the surgical treatment.
So, in a nutshell, diverticulitis is a very important disease that may be treated or controlled with a healthy and balanced diet.