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Facts About Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

What Is Diverticulitis?

What Is Diverticulitis?

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease (diverticulitis) is a common disorder of the colon that occurs more often in Western countries than in Eastern-lifestyle ones. There is no clear explanation as to why this disease is less common in Western countries.

This article will address the following questions:

  1. What is the difference between diverticulosis and diverticulitis?
  2. What are some diverticulitis statistics?
  3. What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?
  4. What are the possible treatments for diverticulitis?
  5. How can you prevent diverticular disease?

Diverticulosis Versus Diverticulitis

Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches form in the wall of the colon. These pouches tend to form when a weak spot in the colon lining is pushed outward. This occurs most frequently in the lower part of the colon (sigmoid portion). If there are multiple pouches, they are called diverticula. The pouches can range from pea-size to much larger. Diverticulosis often has no symptoms.

Diverticulitis happens when the diverticula become infected or inflamed.

Pouches Form in the Wall of the Colon

Pouches Form in the Wall of the Colon

Diverticular Disease Statistics

Diverticular disease is very common. Researchers assume that diverticular disease is more common in Western countries due to lifestyle and dietary choices.

Only 5% of the people that have diverticulosis end up with diverticulitis. In Western populations approximately 10% of the people over age 40 have diverticulosis, and almost all people over the age of 80 have it. Scientists are not really sure what causes diverticulosis.

In Australia one-third of the people over the age of 45 have diverticulosis and two-thirds of those over 85 years of age. In the United States, 200,000 people were hospitalized and in England, the number of hospitalizations increased from 0.56 per 1,000 population to 1.2 per 1,000 over a 10 year period of time. In India, the percentage was less than 0.3%, but the number is growing there as well since it has risen to 3.2% in Chandigarh.

In the United States, approximately 70,000 people have been hospitalized for diverticular bleeding each year.

What is Diverticulosis? | Dr. Voloyiannis

Symptoms of Diverticulosis

The symptoms are as simple as a change in bowel movement patterns or some abdominal pain. Diverticulosis is often free of symptoms, but not eating enough fiber can be a cause as it can cause a buildup of waste in your colon.

Diverticulitis may cause the following symptoms:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Cramping or pain in the lower abdominal area
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Tenderness over the affected area
  • Chills
  • Rectal bleeding

Diagnosing Diverticular Disease

There are several ways this disease may be diagnosed, and they include:

  • Blood test that looks for signs of infection, like a high white blood cell count
  • Stool sample that looks for abnormal bacteria, parasites, blood in stool, diarrhea
  • Digital rectal exam, which inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum
  • CT scan that may show infected or inflamed diverticula and the severity of diverticulitis
  • Barium enema where a liquid that contains barium is injected into your anus, which coats your the colon that is visible on a x-ray
  • Sigmoidoscopy inspects your colon - a thin flexible tube with a light and camera is inserted into your rectum to inspect your colon and anus
  • Colonoscopy that allows an exam of the full length of your colon - tissue samples are often done
  • Angiography if you have rapid, heavy rectal bleeding

Approximately 25% of people with acute diverticulitis have complications, such as an abscess, a bowel blockage, an abnormal passageway between areas of the bowel or other organs or peritonitis.

Sigmid colon

Sigmid colon

Treatments

A mild case of diverticulitis may be treated with metronidazole (Flagyl), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim), ciprofloxacin (Cipro) or amoxicillin and clavulanic acid (Augmentin).

When the symptoms improve you may return to a soft food or more normal diet. If your case is more severe and you have rectal bleeding you may be admitted to the hospital. You will receive intravenous antibiotics, IV fluids and you may be a candidate for surgery.

There are several circumstances that may require surgery, and they include:

  • Peritonitis - a colon tear that allows pus or stool into your abdomen, which is life-threatening
  • Abscess - a walled-off abdominal infection that may be drained with a needle or catheter, but surgery may be necessary
  • Prior infection may cause scars to form, this may result in a partial or complete blockage
  • Fistula - an abnormal passageway that forms with another organ
  • Continuing rectal bleeding - happens with a small blood vessel near the diverticula bursts
  • Diverticulitis not responding to an other treatment
  • Multiple attacks not responding to a high fiber diet

Risk Factors

The risk factors that increase your risk for diverticular disease include:

  • Over the age of 40 years
  • Male
  • Obesity
  • Not exercising
  • Eating a low-fat diet - no vegetables, fruits, breads, beans or legumes
  • Eating a diet high in red meat
  • Smoking
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as Advil, Motrin. Aleve
  • Smoking

Other diseases that are also associated with these symptoms include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Appendicitis
  • Gallstones
  • Stomach ulcers

Preventing Diverticulosis

There are several things you can do to prevent diverticulitis disease, including:

  • Exercise regularly as this promotes normal bowel function, plus it reduces pressure inside your colon
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Eat a high fiber diet
  • Avoid smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Some medications if possible - opioids, steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such
  • as Motrin, Advil, Aleve and naproxen sodium

In Conclusion

Diverticulitis disease is very common and often has no symptoms. When there are any of the symptoms listed above it is time to see the doctor for an evaluation. This disease is usually treatable without surgery, but surgery will resolve the more serious problems

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 02, 2021:

Hi Glen,

In the research I did it sounds like most people don't get diverticulitis. As we age diverticulosis is much more comon, and I think you are eating the right diet.

Through the years people have not always known exactly what the healthiest diet is and the Keto diet is very popular. It is low in fiber for the most part.

I hope you stay healthy, Glen. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on January 01, 2021:

This is a very informative article, Pamela. You’ve provided a lot of interesting statistics about this disease.

I have had diverticulosis for many years. It was first diagnosed when I had a routine colonoscopy. So far, I’ve avoided having it become infected, which would be called diverticulitis, as you mentioned. With any word in English, changing the ending to “itis” represents an infection version of the condition.

I eat a high fiber diet, which helps me avoid having any trouble. My doctor mentioned that fiber helps prevent flare-ups when one has diverticulosis.

According to WebMD, “experts believe a low-fiber diet can lead to diverticulosis.” That is why we probably have more cases of this disease in America than in Asia, for example.

When I was growing up, my mother made many low-fiber meals, which I imagine is why I developed it.

Hopefully, I’ll continue avoiding having it become diverticulitis since I know how painful it can be. To have the complications that you mentioned in your article is not something anyone would want to experience.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 31, 2020:

Hi Adrienne,

Diverticulitis can make you miserable, but more people have no symptoms. I appreciate your comments.

Happy New Year!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 31, 2020:

Hi Linda,

Thank you for your comments. Happy New Year to you too.

Adrienne Farricelli on December 31, 2020:

Hi Pamela, thank you for sharing this important information. A distant relative of mine was diagnosed with diverticulitis some time back and I remember her describing being miserable.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 31, 2020:

Thank you for creating a very educational article, Pamela. I hope you have a happy new year.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 29, 2020:

Hi Devika,

Thank you so much for your nice comments. They are always appreciated.

Have a happy New Year!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 29, 2020:

Pamela99 This is informative and very interesting to know of and I admire your hard work in writing and sharing about the facts of Diverticulitis.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 29, 2020:

Hi MG,

Thank you for reading and commenting. I am glad you found this article informative as this can be a common problem with aging, although a bit less common in India.

Have a Happy New Year!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 28, 2020:

Very interesting and informative article about a subject which I didn't know anything about at all . Thanks a lot for widening my horizon and knowledge.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Flourish,

You have a lot of great suggestions that may help prevent this condition despite age. You comments are always appreciate.

Have a Happy New Year!

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 28, 2020:

This sounds like an absolutely miserable condition and the preponderance of people with it is astounding. Time for folks to stop smoking, start exercising, eat right and break out the Metamucil. Yikes.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Sp,

The symptoms are very common, and they can be symptoms of other diseases. I want to write articles that give people information, so I am glad happy when you learn something new. I always appreciate your comments.

Wishing you all the best for 2021 also.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Ruby,

I didn't know any children could get this disease. That is awful. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Happy New Year!

Sp Greaney from Ireland on December 28, 2020:

This is a condition that I have never heard of before. It seems it should be something that we should all generally be aware of anyway because those symptoms are quite common.

Also every time I read one of your article, I always learn something new which is great.

Wishing you all the best for 2021.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 28, 2020:

I remember having a 12 year old patient, a girl with diverticulitis. I remember the Dr. saying that it was very unusual for anyone that age to have it. Very informative article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi E, Randall,

It is not pleasant for those who have a more advanced stage of this disease. Thank you for reading and commenting.

I see you are a fellow Floridian. Happy New Year!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

The good news is while it is common, most people don't have symptoms unless it becomes more serious. I appreciate your comments.

Happy new Year, Peggy!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting, Osman.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Manatita,

I appreciate your (always interesting) comments.

I do miss nursing sometimes and wish I was still young enough and healthy enough to work, although the pandemic makes it a bit less attractive.

Have a wonderful 2021, Manatita!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Chitrangada,

I am glad you found this article to be informative. I think it is more common in Western countries due to the popularity of fast foods, and many do not eat a healthy diet.

I appreciate your comments, as always. If you ever have any question, please contact me. I hope you have a very good 2021.

E Randall from Florida on December 28, 2020:

Great information, thank you for sharing. I know quite a few people who suffer from this and it is not pleasant.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 28, 2020:

Thanks for writing about a fairly common problem in many people as they age. As you mentioned, a healthy lifestyle is the best antidote. Happy new year, Pamela!

Osman Ghazi on December 28, 2020:

Informative

manatita44 from london on December 28, 2020:

Very well expressed, Pamela, with beautiful illustrations showing the difference between the two forms of this illness. Great! Ever miss nursing? I still do, sometimes! Happy New Year!!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 28, 2020:

An informative article, on an important topic. It’s good that you have mentioned the symptoms. Most people do not take digestion related illnesses seriously. Earlier the diagnosis, better the treatment.

As you have mentioned, that it’s more prevalent in Western countries, I would be interested to know the reasons, why is it so?

Thank you for sharing this well written and researched information.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Linda,

It sounds like you are safe, so that is good news. The prime rib does sound goo, however.

i appreciate your comments. Have a Happy New Year!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on December 28, 2020:

Pamela I had heard of these illnesses but didn't understand the difference between the two. I don't eat red meat (except for the once-a-year prime rib) and have a lot of fiber in my diet. I think I'm safe

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Rosina,

It is good to be aware of possible diseases that are so common, even though most people have no symptoms. I agree that getting check ups are a good idea. I appreciate your comments.

Have a wonderful 2021!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Bill,

I'm glad you found the information helpful. Thank you for your comments. I'm glad you got here early.

Have a wonderful New Year - 2021!

Rosina S Khan on December 28, 2020:

I am glad, Pamela, you brought us an awareness to these diseases. Since I have hit forties, I guess I should be careful and be on check up. Thank you so much for sharing this, which will benefit so many.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 28, 2020:

Great information! I have heard of this, but had no clue what it was. Thanks for the info, my friend, and Happy New Year to you!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 28, 2020:

Hi Susan,

You are certainly not alone. I hope you get a good report from your procedure. I appreciate your comments.

Have a wonderful 2021!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on December 28, 2020:

Very informative hub, Pam. I'm having a procedure done at the beginning of January for this.

Happy New Year!