Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis / Diverticulitis Symptoms & Treatment
Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are types of diverticular disease. Diverticulosis refers to the presence of small pouches, or sacs, that form on the wall of the digestive tract. These pouches occur when the inner lining of the GI tract pushes outward through weak spots in the outer wall of your colon.
One pouch is called a diverticulum, while multiple pouches are called diverticula. They may occur anywhere along the GI tract, although they are most common in the lower part of the colon. If a small blood vessel within the wall of a diverticulum bursts it can cause bleeding. If one or more diverticula become inflamed, this is called diverticulitis, which can cause serious complications.
Diverticular disease is fairly common in the US, especially in adults over the age of 60.
Experts are not sure what causes diverticulosis and diverticulitis but several theories are being studied. In the past experts thought that a low-fiber diet played a role, but recent research has found that to be untrue. It does appear that family history may be a risk factor. Those who have had a parent or sibling with the condition are more likely to develop it than someone who has no family history of diverticulosis.
Diverticulosis typically does not cause symptoms. If it does, symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
However, diverticulitis can occur suddenly, without warning, and cause complications such as:
- Abscess (infected area outside the colon wall)
- Perforated colon (small tear within a pouch in the colon)
- Peritonitis (infection of the lining of the abdomen)
- Fistula (abnormal tunnel between the colon and the bladder or between the colon and the vagina in women)
- Intestinal obstruction (blockage of the movement of food or stool through your intestines)
Since diverticulosis doesn’t cause symptoms, most people with the condition don’t know they have it. It may be discovered incidentally during a screening colonoscopy or during evaluation for another condition for which a CT scan or barium X-rays (lower GI series) is performed.
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