Diverticulitis is a condition which can occur when someone has diverticulosis, a problem that can develop in the intestines, particularly the colon, the large intestine. Diverticulitis results from small pouches that crop up in the digestive tract that become swollen and sometimes infected. This causes a number of symptoms to manifest themselves. The treatment for diverticulitis depends on the severity of the condition, with surgery a possibility to remove the diseased section of the colon.
The pouches that grow in an individual's colon are known as diverticula and they occur where the colon is weak under pressure. Many people will have these pouches and never have a problem with them, often never even knowing they are there. The small pouches expand through the wall of the colon, usually in the part of the colon that is descending and leading to the rectum, called the sigmoid colon. When bits of food and waste matter become trapped in these pouches they can become inflamed. The most obvious sign of diverticultitis is a pain that resembles that of appendicitis, except that it is on the person's left side in most instances. This pain can worsen and then relax for a while before flaring up again. It can last for several days and leave the person with tenderness in the left side of the lower abdomen.
Besides the abdominal pain there are other symptoms that can come with diverticulitis. A fever can develop and the person may experience the chills from time to time. Vomiting and nausea are quite common. The person may eat then feel that he needs to have a bowel movement, and then becomes ill. Cramping and constipation, when he tries to pass stool but cannot, are also features of diverticulitis. There may also be blood in the stool when he does go, a result of straining and the pouches becoming raw.
Serious Complication Symptoms
There are cases where someone with diverticulitis will have one of these pouches rupture, which then allows the waste that passes through the intestines to ooze into the abdominal cavity. This is a life-threatening condition called peritonitis, where the lining of the cavity becomes infected. The symptoms of this will be a high fever, thirst, bloating, extreme nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Other complications that can happen with diverticulitis include a blockage of the colon or small intestine that can prevent anything from passing without great difficulty, if at all. This will have the symptoms of severe pain and constipation along with vomiting and nausea. If one of the pouches becomes infected and then develops an abscess it can also block things up, with similar symptoms.
Mild bouts of diverticulitis can be treated at home after a visit to the doctor. A low-fiber diet or a liquid one will be recommended until the symptoms subside and antibiotics may be prescribed to fight bacteria that are causing any infections. Foods such as whole grains, nuts, popcorn, fruits and most vegetables will need to be avoided during this time and the patient will be urged to drink plenty of fluids. Diverticulitis can clear up in 2 to 4 days in most mild attacks if this regimen is followed.
Severe diverticulitis requires a hospital stay. Intravenous drugs will be used to fight stronger infections and a liquid diet will be the order of the day until the pain and infection has been handled. However, surgery is needed when diverticulitis keeps occurring or when it causes dangerous blockages. This surgery involves removing the diseased portion of the colon and then reconnecting the ends. If there is enough of the colon to reconnect, then the patient will rest in the hospital after the surgery and gradually be weaned onto normal food over the course of a few days. When there is not enough colon to join together, the person will need what is called a colostomy, where an opening is made by the surgeon in the wall of the abdomen and the good part of the colon is connected to the opening. Waste can then pass through it into a special bag called a colostomy bag. In some cases, this procedure can be reversed several months later once the patient's colon has healed, but it is permanent in many instances.