Diverticulitis Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Our body is often exposed to different kinds of problems. In this article we are going to talk about a very common problem occurring in individuals, known as Diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can be very painful. It happens when pouches formed in the wall of the colon get infected. Diverticulitis is a very common problem found in the large intestine.

Diverticulitis can occur anywhere in the colon but mostly it occurs towards the end of the large intestine known as the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon has the smallest diameter of any portion of the colon therefore it is expected to have the most intraluminal pressure.

Diverticulitis Symptoms

Many people who have had this disease have known to not face any kinds of symptoms or discomfort in the beginning. No one is really sure as to what causes this disease but some of the symptoms that the doctors have mentioned are:

  • Pain in the belly (usually on the lower left side)
  • High fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sharp pains in other parts of the body
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Ruptures
  • Colonic obstruction
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation occurring too often
  • Bleeding into the colon
  • Diarrhea occurring for a long period of time
  • Not feeling like eating or drinking anything

Diverticulitis Causes

Although the causes are really not known but it is believed to some extent that low fiber diet causes this disease. The pressure of the fiber actually causes the colon to work harder than it usually does and this might result in pouches being formed in weak spots along the colon.  It is also believed that diverticulitis usually forms in older people and its probability increases with age.

It is believed that diverticulitis can be extremely painful therefore the earlier it is diagnosed and treated the better it would be. The diagnosis of this disease can be made through several means. Blood tests can be taken (such as a CBC) or X- rays and CT Scans can be done. Barium X-rays can actually be performed to get a good picture of the colon and to observe whether this problem has really occurred. Moreover there are other practical and more effective ways of studying the colon for example a direct visualization can be done with the use of flexible tubes inserted through the rectum. It is important to note that once these tests are done and diverticulitis is found to exist, only then will the doctor recommend ultra sound or CT scans to be done to get a clearer picture of what exactly the problem is.

Diverticulitis Treatment

Once diagnosed, your doctor will decide what the perfect treatment should be. Usually the type and nature of the treatment would depend on the symptoms (how bad they are). Usually for infection, your doctor might prescribe you antibiotics. It is important to note that these antibiotics are to be taken regularly as prescribed and are not to be stopped even if you start feeling better. You have to finish its course otherwise it will have even more negative effects. Antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), metronidazole (Flagyl), cephalexin (Keflex) and doxycycline etc and other drugs such as chlordiazepoxide (Librax), dicyclomine (Bentyl), antropine (Donnotal) and Levsin are usually used if a person faces mild symptoms of diverticulitis. For such patients, even a high fiber diet and fiber supplements might be helpful to get a relief from constipation and other such problems. In a situation like this, doctors might also restrict the use of nuts, corns and seeds etc and might actually recommend you to take in more liquids or low fiber foods. This usually done is to reduce the amount of material that passes through the large intestine.

For patients who face severe symptoms, antibiotics and/or drugs might not really help. In that case, one of the options is a surgery. The decision to perform a surgery is based on a number of factors including the age of the patient, their medical history, previous surgeries done (if any), stage of the disease and their general medical condition. Surgery is usually compulsory for people whose intestine has ruptured. The ruptured part of the intestine is removed during a surgery. The doctor or the surgeon in this case will create a path between the colon and the surface of the skin.

The surgery can be done in either of the two ways including a bowel resection or through a bowel resection with colostomy.

The bowel resection part involves the removal of the ruptured part of the colon and the joining of it to the other healthy parts of the colon. This process is known as anastomosis. There are several ways of doing this, depending upon the medical condition of the patient.

The bowel resection with colostomy is a riskier type of surgery. It is often life threatening too because of its nature. This type of surgery includes the temporary colostomy which is then followed by a second operation which serves the purpose of reversing the colostomy. In this type of surgery the colon is actually brought out through an opening made in the abdominal wall and the waste is collected into an external bag.

Apart from the usual effects this disease creates, some complications can also arise. In this case there is a possibility that bacteria might actually infect the outside of the colon. This can result in potentially fatal peritonitis. This can also result in narrowing of the bowel and causing a fistula.

Some Precautions

Some things that a person can do to avoid such a disease are:

  • Replacing white bread with whole wheat ones
  • Having at least two meals a week without meat. The meals can include beans or peas.
  • Eating fruits with their skins on.
  • Increasing the intake of vegetables (vegetables contain important vitamins which are essential for good health)
  • Increasing your fibre intake slowly
  • Increasing the consumption of fluids especially water and juices.

In order to avoid diverticulitis it is important to take precautionary measures and make sure you take good care of yourself.