When you hear about gastrointestinal conditions, your first thought is likely about the common bowel movement disorder or Crohn’s disease. However, it’s just as useful to learn the lesser-known disorders affecting the digestive system like diverticulitis, which affects about half of adults aged 60 and above.
What Is Diverticulitis?
When there is heightened pressure inside your colon, small pouches (diverticula) can grow in the lining of your digestive system. The presence of diverticula is a condition known as diverticulosis, which often does not have symptoms and seldom causes health problems. It develops in the colon’s weakened areas, most commonly in the S-shaped segment called the sigmoid colon. Diverticulitis occurs when one or more of these pouches becomes inflamed or infected.
How Are Symptoms Diagnosed?
Diverticulitis is especially common among adults over 40. The most common symptom is constant pain on the lower side of your abdomen that can start mild and increase in intensity over several days. However, the pain may also be severe and sudden.
Here are other symptoms you should keep in mind:
- Cramps in the lower abdomen
- Tenderness in the abdomen
In severe cases, it can also result in:
- Rectal bleeding
- Tears or perforation in the colon
- Blockages in the colon
Since most cases of diverticulosis do not have symptoms, your doctor is likely to detect the presence of diverticula during routine tests or screening for other conditions. It may also not be detected until it develops into diverticulitis, which is often diagnosed after an acute attack.
However, if you’re already experiencing diverticulitis symptoms, your doctor will perform a series of tests to accurately diagnose the condition. The following are some of the diagnostic tests you can expect:
- Blood and urine tests can show signs of infection
- A stool sample can show abnormal bacteria and parasites causing your symptoms
- A digital rectal exam allows your doctor to feel any problems in your rectum or anus
- CT scans can show diverticula and the severity of the inflammation
- Sigmoidoscopy allows for a visual inspection of your sigmoid colon and rectum
- A colonoscopy examines your colon for possible causes of abdominal pain
How Is Diverticulitis Treated?
Mild cases of diverticulitis can be treated with oral antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medications. For a few days, you will have to follow a liquid diet to give your intestines time to heal as the antibiotics treat the infection.
With your doctor’s permission, you can slowly add soft foods to your diet and shift to a high-fiber diet. Likewise, you need to drink lots of water and exercise regularly to reduce the risk of developing the disease again. Complicated cases of diverticulitis may require hospitalization. You will receive antibiotics intravenously.
For recurrent diverticulitis or cases where there is rectal bleeding, abscess, blockages, or fistulas, surgical intervention may be necessary. The infected pouch may also crack open and leak pus or stool into the abdominal cavity. In these cases, diverticulitis can result in an infection known as peritonitis, which requires emergency medical assistance.
The main types of surgery performed to treat diverticulitis are primary bowel resection and bowel resection with colostomy. The procedure you need will depend on the severity of your condition.
Diverticulitis Treatment in Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Diverticulosis can develop into diverticulitis, which causes significant pain and has severe complications. This highlights the importance of timely diagnosis and intervention. If you observed any of the symptoms of diverticulitis, visit the experts at Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates for prompt treatment of digestive tract issues.
Our board-certified gastroenterologists can diagnose and treat a wide range of lower GI conditions, including diverticulitis. We will thoroughly evaluate your condition to create a tailored treatment plan for you, which may involve medication, surgery, and lifestyle modifications. Call us at (717) 245-2228 or fill out our online request form to schedule an appointment. We look forward to seeing you.