WHAT IS DIVERTICULAR DISEASE?
Diverticular disease affects the colon. The colon is part of the large intestine that removes waste from your body. Diverticular disease is made up of two conditions: diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Diverticulosis occurs when pouches, called diverticula, form in the colon. These pouches bulge out like weak spots in a tire. Diverticulitis occurs if the pouches become inflamed.
WHAT CAUSES DIVERTICULAR DISEASE?
Doctors are not sure what causes diverticular disease. Many think a diet low in fiber is the main cause. Fiber is a part of food that your body cannot digest. It is found in many fruits and vegetables. Fiber stays in the colon and absorbs water, which makes bowel movements easier to pass. Diets low in fiber may cause constipation, which occurs when stools are hard and difficult to pass. Constipation causes your muscles to strain when you pass stool. Straining may cause diverticula to form in the colon. If stool or bacteria get caught in the pouches, diverticulitis can occur.
IS DIVERTICULAR DISEASE SERIOUS?
Most people with the disease do not have serious problems, but some people have severe symptoms. Diverticulitis can be sudden and cause:
- Serious Infections
- Rips in the pouches
- Fistula, which is a connection or passage between tissues or organs in the body that normally do not connect
- Blockage in your digestive system
- An infection in which the colon ruptures causing stool to empty from the colon into the abdomen.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DIVERTICULAR DISEASE?
The symptoms for diverticulosis and diverticulitis are different.
Diverticulosis – Many people don’t have symptoms, but some people have cramping, bloating, and constipation. Some people also have bleeding, inflammation, and fistulas. If you are bleeding, bright red blood will pass through your rectum. The rectum is the end of the colon that connects to the anus. The rectum and anus are part of the gastrointestinal tract, which is the passage that food goes through. Rectal bleeding is usually painless, but it can be dangerous. You should see a doctor right away.
Diverticulitis – People with diverticulitis can have many symptoms. Often pain is felt in the lower part of your abdomen. If you have diverticulitis, you may have fevers, feel sick to your stomach, vomit, or have a change in bowel habits.
WHO GETS DIVERTICULAR DISEASE?
Many people get diverticular disease. Starting at age 40, the chance of getting it increases about every 10 years. About half of people between the ages of 60 and 80 have diverticular disease. Almost everyone over 80 has it.
HOW DOES THE DOCTOR TEST FOR DIVERTICULAR DISEASE?
The doctor can test for diverticular disease many ways. A CT scan is the most common test used. The doctor will inject a liquid in a vein in your arm that better highlights your organs on x-rays. You may be asked to drink liquid called barium instead of getting an injection. You are then placed in a large doughnut-shaped machine that takes x-rays.