Diverticula are bulging pouches that are usually found in the larger intestine. They can also be found in others areas of the digestive system, such as the stomach and small intestine. It is not completely understood why some people develop this condition. It is believed segments of the colon may be weak. Pressure can develop in the colon, which may cause it to bulge.
Not all people will have symptoms if they have diverticula. However, the diverticula can become inflamed and infected. When this occurs the condition is known as diverticulitis. If inflammation develops, symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. Some people may also have bleeding from their rectum.
There are a few theories about why diverticulitis develops in some people with this condition. An inflammation may be caused by an obstruction in the diverticulum. Physicians believe another possible cause may be fecal material, which becomes trapped in the opening of the diverticula and can cause an infection.
Although the exact cause of diverticulitis is not known, there are known risk factors for developing the condition. People who are obese or don’t eat enough fiber are at risk of developing diverticulitis. Being over the age of 40 is also a risk factor. Other risk factors include being overweight and not getting enough exercise.
When diverticulitis develops, treatment is usually needed and may vary depending on how severe the symptoms are. Many cases can be treated at home. Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat the infection. A doctor will often recommend a liquid diet while a patient is experiencing symptoms.
If symptoms occur often or are severe, additional treatment may be needed. In some cases hospitalization may be needed to give antibiotics intravenously. In patients who get repeated infections, surgery to remove part of the colon where the diverticula are may be recommended.
Complications can occur from diverticulitis and include a bowel obstruction, abscess, and fistulas. Certain complications, such as peritonitis, can be life- threatening if not treated. Peritonitis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach cavity.
There are a few things people with this condition can do to prevent an inflammation and infection from developing. Getting exercise and maintaining a healthy weight reduce the chances of developing diverticulitis. Eating foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits and whole grains, helps waste pass through the colon faster. This reduces pressure in the colon and may prevent diverticulitis from developing.