Diverticulosis occurs when small pockets or pouches (diverticula) that have formed within the muscle wall of the large intestine or colon. Diverticulitis is when diverticula become infected and/or inflammation occurs.
- Diet and older age are the most common risk factors
- Diverticulosis is often asymptomatic and many individuals are unaware they have them.
Symptoms of diverticulosis include
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Constipation and diarrhoea
- Blood in faeces
- Anaemia as a result of bleeding
Symptoms of diverticulitis include
- Sharp pain, often located at a specific point
- Distended abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
Complications of diverticular disease
- Perforation – a weakened pocket of bowel wall may rupture. This is considered a medical emergency and immediate treatment is required.
- Peritonitis – Perforation can cause an infection within the lining of the abdominal cavity and surrounding organs
Diagnosis of diverticular disease
- Medical history – including dietary habits
- Physical examination – including rectal examination
- Barium enema – a special dye is flushed into the bowel via the anus and x-rays are taken
- CT scan
- Blood tests
- Stool tests
Treatment for diverticulosis
- Treatment is centred around managing symptoms
- Switch in the diet with an emphasis on adequate soluble fibre intake. Fibre aids a healthy bowel and can eliminate or reduce the severity of symptoms.
- Some foods such as nuts, legumes and corn can aggravate diverticulosis and should be eliminated in the diet of some individuals.
- Short-term use of laxatives to manage and prevent constipation may be used. The use of laxatives should be guided by a medical professional.
Treatment for diverticulitis
Often a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention and usually involves a hospital admission. Mild attacks can be treated at home but an assessment from a qualified professional (GP) is advised. Treatment may include:
- Treatment may include:
- No eating or drinking
- Pain-relieving medication
- The long-term use of a mild antibiotic. These are used to help prevent the likelihood of future attacks.
- Increase your daily intake of green vegetables. Introduce fibre gradually. A sudden increase in fibre can cause stomach and abdominal upsets such as bloating and flatulence.
- Fibre supplements such as psyllium/Metamucil may be helpful for those struggling to reach fibre intake.
- Keep hydrated
- Exercise regularly to encourage bowel movements