Diverticulitis Overview, Care and Prevention

Diverticulitis is a condition in which pockets or out pouchings develop on the wall of the colon. These most commonly occur on the left side of the colon known as the sigmoid colon. The incidence of diverticulosis increases with age and the condition is more common in western society, such as the United States.

Most patients with diverticulosis have no symptoms and the condition is found, incidentally, when they undergo diagnostic testing, such as a colonoscopy. When a diverticular pocket becomes infected, the condition is known as diverticulitis. This will often cause pain in the left lower abdomen, fever and constipation. Diverticula can also occasionally bleed. This typically results in profuse, painless rectal bleeding.

People with asymptomatic diverticulosis do not require any specific treatment. It is recommended that they consume a high fiber diet. Diverticulitis is usually successfully treated by antibiotic therapy. Infection unresponsive to antibiotic therapy may require surgery. Bleeding from diverticulosis is usually self-limited and will subside with observation in the hospital. Persistent bleeding can often be controlled by performing a colonoscopy and injecting medication, or clipping the bleeding diverticulum. Severe bleeding uncontrolled by these measures may require surgery.

Preventive health measures effectively safeguard overall digestive vitality. Regional Gi recommends consuming fibrous foods to efficiently combat diverticulitis. The Dietary Guideline for Americans, 2010, recommends a fiber intake of 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. However, there were many misconceptions concerning food intake and diverticulitis. Until recently, health providers advised patients to avoid high-particle foods such as nuts, sunflower seeds and popcorn. It was believed that these food would block or irritate diverticula. However, recent data suggests that these foods are relatively harmless.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease provides patients with a wonderful resource for more information on diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Please schedule a consult with an Regional Gi board-certified GI specialist if you are suffering from diverticulitis symptoms.