Diverticulitis is a gastroenterological condition impacting the large intestine. Also known as the colon, the large intestine is responsible for storing and eliminating food waste in the human body. As a person ages, pressure from within the colon can cause bulging sacks or pockets of tissue to push out from the walls of the colon. These are called diverticula.
In the United States, diverticula are common amongst the aging population. While a rare condition for those under 40, nearly three quarters of Americans over 80 will develop some form of diverticulosis, which is the condition of having diverticula.
Some people with diverticulosis may not experience any symptoms. Others will experience issues like abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. However, diverticulitis develops when a diverticulum becomes ruptured and infected. This is a more serious condition than just diverticulosis, and is often associated with abdominal pain, abdominal tenderness, colonic obstruction and fever.
If you are suffering from diverticulitis, you should seek medical treatment from your local gastroenterologist as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are various steps that you and your doctor can take to help manage diverticulitis. These include,
- Antibiotics. Antibiotics usually are needed to treat patients with diverticulitis. For those with relatively mild symptoms, usually oral antibiotics will be sufficient. Common antibiotic choices can include ciprofloxacin, metronidazole, cephalexin, and doxycycline. However, for patients with severe cases, intravenous antibiotics administered in a hospital may be needed.
- Liquid and Low Fibre Diets. During an acute case of diverticulitis, a liquid or low fibre diet may be advised by your doctor. Adhering to such a diet should reduce the amount of material passing through the colon, and thus reduce the symptoms and problems of diverticulitis.
- Long Term Diet Changes. When acute diverticulitis symptoms have passed, your doctor may advise you to return to a more normal diet, rather than a liquid diet. However, you may be advised to make long-term adjustments to your food choices. For example, some studies have shown that eating fiber-rich foods can actually help control diverticular symptoms over the long run. Your will probably also be advised to adopt a generally healthy diet, and to increase your water intake to help avoid constipation. Again, remember that before making any major changes to your diet, you should consult your gastroenterologist.
- Surgical Treatment. For patients with severe cases that are not responding to other forms of treatment, surgery may be necessary. The primary goal of this surgery will be to remove most or all of the colon areas that contain diverticula. Fortunately, there are few long-term consequences of this surgery, and it can often be done laparoscopically, which will reduce the patient’s discomfort and recovery time.
- Prevention. In theory, it may be the case that a diet that is overall high in fibre will reduce a person’s risk of diverticular formation. This may be why some asian countries have a lower incidence of diverticulitis, since these countries have an average diet higher in fibre. Some may also speculate that probiotics may be helpful in preventing diverticulitis, but there is little evidence of this theory to date.
Hopefully this information will help you in the treatment and management of diverticulitis. Remember that you should always visit your local gastroenterologist and get advice specific to your situation if you believe you have a medical issue. If you’re local to the DFW area, consider visiting the offices of Arlington Gastroenterology Services. We serve the entire DFW/North Texas region, including Arlington, Keller, Southlake, Plano, Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Richardson, and many other cities in Texas.