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Conditions

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease is a condition in which pockets protrude through weak areas in the colon wall. Each pocket is called a diverticulum, and multiple pockets are called diverticula. Diverticular disease affects most commonly the left colon. However, it can extend throughout other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

Symptoms

Some patients with this condition may experience altered bowel habits. In addition, this includes left lower abdominal pain. Lastly, other patients may not experience any onset symptoms.

Who gets diverticular disease?

First of all, most patients with diverticular disease remain asymptomatic. Therefore, this makes it difficult to determine who is susceptible. In addition it appears that illness becomes more common as we age. Lastly, approximately 1 out of 4 adults by age 50 have this disease.

How is diverticular disease diagnosed?

A diagnosis of diverticular disease begins with a thorough history a well as physical examination. Consequently, if you are experiencing any symptoms associated with this disease, your gastroenterologist will then proceed with a combination of tests. Furthermore, this is to properly diagnose. Lastly, these tests include blood/stool analysis as well as radiographic imaging. In addition, this includes colonoscopy.

Why is diverticular disease important?

Patients with diverticular disease can develop a variety of complications which carry their own unique symptoms. When no complications are present the patient is said to have diverticulosis. Diverticulitis is a serious complication of the illness where the orifice of a diverticulum becomes obstructed, leading to inflammation. You may experience significant left, lower abdominal pain with additional symptoms of fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and change in bowels. Uncomplicated cases of diverticulitis can be treated with antibiotics and bowel rest. Rarely, more serious complications such as bowel obstruction, abscesses and/or perforation require surgical therapy.
Diverticular hemorrhage is a serious complication of this illness where a blood vessel erodes through a diverticulum. You may have diverticular hemorrhage if you experience sudden passage of red or maroon blood from the anus, sometimes mixed with stool. Bleeding may be accompanied by abdominal cramping with weakness, dizziness and lightheadedness. Contact your Gastroenterologist immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

Treatment

Aside from maintaining a high fiber diet, no medical treatment is rendered for asymptomatic diverticular disease. Treatment may consist of monitoring your condition to ensure it does not worsen.

What can I do to reduce my risk of developing diverticular disease and its complications?

It is recommended that patients maintain a high fiber diet. In addition, the widely held belief that nut and seed avoidance decreases your risk of developing diverticulitis is unfounded. Recent studies suggest that the use of NSAIDs may increase ones’ risk of developing a complication and should be avoided.

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