Diverticulosis

Most often found in the lower part of your large intestine, diverticula are small, bulging pouches in the lining. These seldom may cause problems, unless one or more bulges becomes inflamed or infected.

We offer a comprehensive team of specialists skilled in diagnosing and treating digestive disorders. Our modern treatment techniques to manage digestive disease provide the care that you deserve.

Treatments for Diverticulosis

Depending on the severity of your diverticulitis, you may be able to be treated at home through antibiotics, liquid diet or over the counter pain reliever. If your diverticulitis is more severe, your treatment may include surgery. Your treatment plan will be individualized to accommodate your needs and frequency of care.

Colonoscopy
After symptoms are under control, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy to determine if there's a larger problem causing your symptoms, like irritable bowel or colon cancer.

Diet and Nutrition Counseling
Our dietitians will work with your doctor to get your diet to cooperate with your condition. We will help identify trigger foods to avoid while helping you enjoy meals.

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What Is Diverticulosis?

The large intestine (colon) is the last part of the digestive tract. Food passes through it just before waste leaves the body as a bowel movement (stool). In diverticular disease, parts of the colon wall are weak. These weak places can puff out like small sacs (diverticula). Each sac is called a diverticulum. These parts can become red and swollen (inflamed) and infected. Diverticulosis refers to the presence of diverticula in many places. Most often, diverticuli occur in the lower part of the colon (sigmoid and distal colon) near the rectum.

The condition is a lifelong problem. Up to 20% of the general population has diverticulosis. Older people tend to have diverticuli more often than younger people. Up to 50% of people at age 50 will have them. Complications include infection (diverticulitis) and bleeding.

What Causes Diverticulosis?

The cause is the bulging (herniation) of the colon wall (mucosa) through the muscular layer of the colon. The reason for the herniation is unknown. Diverticulosis can occur if food breakdown products and feces move too slowly through the colon. People who eat a low-fiber diet are much more likely to form diverticula. It’s not contagious or cancerous.

What Are the Symptoms of Diverticulosis?

Most people don’t have any symptoms. About 10% to 20% of people have mild cramping in the left side of the abdomen (belly). A bowel movement or passing gas often relieves the cramping. Constipation may be an occasional problem.

How Is Diverticulosis Diagnosed?

Diverticulosis is diagnosed with a colonoscopy. In a colonoscopy, the health care provider looks at the whole colon using a lighted flexible tube put through the rectum. The tube has a tiny camera that lets the health care provider look for problem spots and take pictures. Before this test, a laxative must be taken to empty all food from the colon. Rarely a barium enema may be done in place of colonoscopy. For the barium enema x-ray examination, a liquid containing the substance barium is placed in the rectum. The liquid makes it easier to see inside the colon. Diverticulosis is often found when tests, such as a CT scan of the abdomen, are done for another disorder.

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How Is Diverticulosis Treated?

No treatment is needed unless symptoms occur. For symptoms, a change in diet, with more fiber and fluids, and use of stool softeners will help. Avoid nuts and seeds, which can get stuck in diverticula.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Diverticulosis:
  • DO eat a high-fiber, low-salt, low-fat diet. Avoiding constipation with a high-fiber diet will lower chances of getting diverticulosis.
  • DO drink plenty of fluids.
  • DO keep physically active.
  • DO maintain your correct weight. Try to lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • DO maintain good bowel habits by trying to have a bowel movement daily.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have blood in your stool or dark, tarry bowel movements.
  • DO watch for signs of diverticulitis and complications, such as abdominal pain and fever.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have a fever or abdominal pain or your pain becomes worse.
  • DON’T strain with bowel movements.
  • DON’T use laxatives.
FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact the following sources:

  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
    Tel: (800) 891-5389
    Website: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/digest/nddic.htm
  • American College of Gastroenterology
    Tel: (703) 820-7400
    Website: http://www.acg.gi.org

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor