Diverticulitis & Diverticulosis

Test Time.  Colonoscopy That Is.  This Test May Be Life Saving.

It’s probably not on your list of all-time favorite things to do, but everyone between the ages of 50 and 75 should have a colonoscopy every 5 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This important preventive examination allows a doctor to obtain a clear view of your colon and look for any signs of polyps or colon cancer.  Colon cancer the third most common cancer in the United States with an estimated 143,000 new diagnoses every year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

But it’s not the only reason your colon needs a close-up as you age. You may be at risk for a colon-related condition called diverticulosis. An estimated 50 percent of all adults over age 60 have diverticulosis, according to the National Institutes of Health. And it’s often discovered through a routine screening test such as a colonoscopy.

What is diverticulosis?

If you have diverticulosis, you have small bulges or pouches in the lining of your colon. This may make it difficult to have a bowel movement, which forces the colon to exert a greater amount of pressure than normal to go to the bathroom. While this is a common condition in older people, if the pouches become infected or rupture, you will develop diverticulitis and will need urgent medical care or surgery to prevent serious health complications.

Symptoms and Causes

There are generally no obvious signs of diverticulosis. If you have diverticulosis you may experience occasional difficulty having a bowel movement. But otherwise there are no clear indicators of this condition without a colonoscopy or similar exam.

Health professionals believe the most common reasons people develop diverticulosis is a lack of fiber in the diet. When you eat a meal, the food passes through your esophagus to your stomach where digestion begins. Then it passes through the small intestine for further digestion and absorption of nutrients and moves on to the large intestine or colon.

If your diet is lacking in adequate fiber and hydration at this point, hard stools can develop and cause constipation. When you attempt to have a bowel movement, your colon will have to work harder than normal to pass those hard stools. Any weak point in the lining of your colon can be compromised at this point and develop into a bulge. For the health of your colon and the rest of your body, you should aim to avoid this condition.

If diverticulosis develops into diverticulitis and the infected pouches in the colon rupture, symptoms may include sudden and severe lower abdominal pain on the left side. And in some cases, people may also experience fever, nausea, vomiting, and significant bowel discomfort.

Remedies and Treatment Options

Eating a healthy diet and drinking an adequate amount of water is the best prevention for diverticulosis. And if your doctor discovers that you have diverticulosis, your first prescription may be to start eating a fiber-rich diet and drink more water. Other remedies might include over-the-counter laxatives and anti-inflammatory medicine.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that women eat at least 25 grams of fiber per day, and men eat at least 30 grams of fiber per day for best health. Dietary fiber is best obtained by eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. In most cases, making important dietary improvements is the best treatment for diverticulitis.

Surgery for Diverticulitis

If your doctor discovers that your diverticulae are infected, you may need to follow strict dietary guidelines and take stool softeners and antibiotics to prevent the conditioning from worsening. But if a diverticulum ruptures or the infection fails to respond to medication, you will most likely need surgery for diverticulitis. The surgical cure for diverticulitis involves removing the part of the colon damaged by the infected diverticulum. While surgery of any kind is always serious, the good news is that resecting and repairing your colon is a proven and effective way to restore the health of your colon.

After diverticulitis surgery, patients must not eat or drink for a few days to allow the colon to heal. After that, patients can begin with eating small amounts of food and liquid as the colon continues to heal. As with any surgery, there are potential risks for infection and complications, but most people diagnosed with diverticulitis respond well to the surgery.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

The board certified surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates will be able to help you if you have problems related to diverticulosis or diverticulitis.  They also specialize in all diseases of the colon, rectum and anus.  By calling (310)273-2310, you can schedule your confidential consultation and help remain on the path of health.