If you have a colon abscess caused by diverticulitis, you might not know it right away. The initial symptoms may feel like the flu. Diarrhea or constipation, lack of appetite, fever, and chills can sometimes be an indicator of a diverticular abscess. But if you have severe pain or pressure in your lower abdomen, or notice blood or pus in your stool, it may be a colon abscess and not the flu. Diverticulitis, which begins as outpouchings of the colon, known as diverticulosis, can compromise your digestive tract. Treatment is mandatory. If left unchecked, an abscess can lead to serious long-term digestive problems and even death, according to colon and rectal surgeons, also known as proctologists.
Lifestyle habits are the primary cause of diverticulosis, according to the National Institutes of Health. Lack of fiber in your diet and inadequate hydration can make bowel movements more difficult. In some cases, food allergies can also be a contributing factor in the formation of Diverticulosis. Other studies have found that lack of exercise, smoking, and certain medications have been linked to the development of diverticulosis and diverticulitis with colon abscesses.
When the large intestine does not have enough water absorbed from the digestion of food, this causes added pressure on the colon to pass a hard stool. The added pressure can cause weak spots in the lining of the colon. When this happens, a bulge or small sack can appear in the colon. This only exacerbates passing a hard stool and may increase the size or number of bulges in the colon. Without lifestyle changes or treatment, the bulges in the colon, also known as the diverticula, can become inflamed and infected by fecal matter, bacteria, or some other foreign substance. This infection requires immediate medical treatment by a colon and rectal surgeon.
Your doctor may discover that you have a colon abscess during a regular physical exam. Most commonly, you might see your doctor because you have abdominal pain. If further discovery is needed to determine the health of your colon, your doctor may perform a CT scan, or ultrasound of your abdominal region to get a better picture of the possible abscess. A simple blood test may also be ordered to confirm the presence of an infection.
Your doctor will typically treat your condition using the least invasive option first.
If your doctor believes you have a colon abscess, you might be asked to temporarily reduce your diet to liquids and other foods that are easy to digest, the so called low residue diet. This will reduce pressure on the abscess and may help prevent it from rupturing. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to help eliminate the infection in the diverticula. However, if the colon abscess doesn’t respond to medication, your surgeon may recommend a more aggressive form of treatment.
If your abscess does not respond to medication, a second treatment option for an abscess is drainage. This procedure is formally called percutaneous catheter drainage. In this procedure, you receive a local anesthetic at the skin above the site of the abscess. Then, an interventional radiologist makes an incision in the skin and tunnels a catheter into the abscess to allow the pus and infection to drain. You’ll take pain medication and antibiotics to follow. In most cases, recovery takes about two to four weeks and you may experience some abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bleeding. But, if successful, drainage is easier on your body than having an operation.
If you have an infected abscess and it ruptures, the fluid can leak into your abdominal cavity and cause a serious and life-threatening condition called peritonitis. The hallmark symptoms for this condition are severe abdominal cramping and vomiting, often accompanied by a high fever. These symptoms of a ruptured colon abscess are also frequently accompanied by lack of urination, lack of appetite, and excessive thirst. If a colon abscess ruptures, it can lead to septic shock, gangrene, and even death. If your doctor believes you have a ruptured colon abscess, you’ll likely be admitted for emergency surgery to remove the abscess and infected colon segment to control the spread of infection.
Prognosis and Prevention
Fortunately, colon abscess drainage and treatment is uncommon but possible with proper care. Most people who experience a colon abscess and receive proper treatment resume all normal activities within a few weeks. While some people experience recurring colon abscess problems, most people don’t. Your best approach to preventing a colon abscess is to eat a healthy fiber-rich diet, drink plenty of water, and get regular exercise to help your bowels produce soft, easy-to-pass stools. If you do experience abdominal discomfort or think you have a colon abscess, see your doctor for a diagnosis and proper treatment plan.
Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates
The board certified surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are skilled in the rapid diagnosis and treatment of diverticulosis, diverticulitis and all diseases related to the colon, rectum and anus.
By calling (310)273-2310, you can schedule a confidential consultation and discuss any of your problems or questions with your physician.