The colon will sometimes have tiny, bulging pouches which are called diverticula. The occurrence of this pouches is called diverticulosis. Sometimes these diverticula get infected and inflamed, this causes diverticulitis.
What are the symptoms?
Usually diverticulosis shows no outward symptoms. But when it progresses to diverticulitis then there are specific symptoms like abdominal bloating, pain, and tenderness in the left lower abdomen. There may be other symptoms like diarrhea, chills and low-grade fever too.
What causes diverticula?
The reason for diverticula formation is not very clear. It is observed that when high-pressure areas inside the colon push against the weak spots in the colon wall, it leads to formation of diverticula. It happens mostly in the lower part of the large intestine.
The difference in diverticulosis & diverticulitis
The occurrence of diverticulosis is widespread and many people over the age of 60 will have it. Though only 10 – 25% of them may develop diverticulitis. It mainly develops when the pouches that are blocked with waste get inflamed. This leads to tears in the bowel followed by infection of the site.
In diverticula if a hole develops between the pouch and a blood vessel, it leads to bleeding. In turn there can be large amount of blood in the stools. The condition is painless, and the bleeding stops typically on its own. In sporadic cases, the bleeding can be severe necessitating a surgery.
Fibrous diet and diverticulosis
A diet deficient in soluble fibres causes diverticulosis. The addition of a fibre rich diet can help prevent constipation and the formation of diverticula in the colon. High fibre foods include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, brown rice and whole-wheat foods. It is recommended that women should include 25 grams of fibre and men around 35% of fibre in their diet.
Treatment of diverticulosis
Patients with diverticulosis have no or limited symptoms and do not require any specific treatment. As mentioned earlier, a diet rich in fibre is al that is necessary for preventing constipation and formation of diverticula.
Treatment of diverticulitis
When symptoms like abdominal pain, cramps and fever occur due to diverticulitis they are treated with necessary antibiotics. Suppose the pain gets severe, a diet of clear liquids can let the colon and bowel recover faster and make the pain subside. When the pain and fever get very severe, and there is difficulty in taking fluids, then hospitalisation is required with administration of intravenous antibiotics.