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  • CRC Houston's Doctors Group Photo
  • CRC Houston's Doctors Group Photo
  • CRC Houston's Doctors Group Photo
  • CRC Houston's Doctors Group Photo
  • CRC Houston's Doctors Group Photo

Diverticulitis Can Have Limited to Severe Symptoms

When the small pouches in the colon bulge outward through weak spots, like an inner tube that pokes through weak places in a tire, the pouch is called a diverticulum. Pouches (plural) are called diverticula. The condition of having diverticula is called diverticulosis.

More than 10 percent of Americans over the age of 40 have diverticulosis. The condition becomes more common with aging. Nearly half of all people over 60 suffer from diverticulosis.

When the pouches become infected or inflamed, the condition is then called diverticulitis, and this happens in 10 to 25 percent of all people with diverticulosis. Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are also called diverticular disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Diverticular Disease?

Most people with diverticulosis have little or no discomfort or symptoms. However, symptoms can include mild cramps, bloating, and constipation. Other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers cause similar problems, so these symptoms do not always mean a person has diverticulosis.

The most common symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain with tenderness around the left side of the lower abdomen. If infection is the cause, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping, and constipation may occur as well. The severity of symptoms depends on the extent of the infection and complications.

Treating Diverticulitis with Antibiotics and Surgery

The board certified surgeons of the Colon & Rectal Clinic based in the Texas Medical Center are skilled at diagnosing and treating both mild and severe cases of diverticulitis.

Treatment for diverticulitis focuses on clearing up the infection and inflammation, resting the colon, and preventing or minimizing complications. An attack of diverticulitis without complications may respond to antibiotics within a few days if treated early.

An acute attack with severe pain or severe infection may require a hospital stay with treatment by antibiotics and a liquid diet. In some cases, however, surgery may be necessary.

When is Surgery Necessary to Treat Diverticulitis?

If attacks are severe or frequent, the Colon & Rectal Clinic physicians may advise surgery. The surgeon removes the affected part of the colon and joins the remaining sections. This type of surgery, called colon resection, is intended to keep the attacks from recurring and to prevent complications. The surgeon may also recommend surgery for complications of a fistula or intestinal obstruction.

If antibiotics do not correct an attack, emergency surgery may be required. Other reasons for emergency surgery include a large abscess, perforation, peritonitis, or continued bleeding.

Points to Remember About Diverticular Disease

  • Most people with diverticulosis never experience any discomfort or symptoms.
  • Diverticulosis is most likely caused by a low-fiber diet that increases constipation and colon pressure.
  • For most people, eating a high-fiber diet is the only treatment needed for diverticulosis.
    • Increase your fiber intake by eating: whole grain breads and cereals; fruit like apples and peaches; vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, spinach, carrots, asparagus, and squash; and starchy vegetables like kidney beans and lima beans.

If are experiencing these symptoms, contact the Colon & Rectal Clinic nearest you to arrange for an evaluation.