Diverticulosis & Diverticulitis

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Diverticulitis Or Diverticulosis?  A Big Difference.

It is not uncommon for a proctologist (also known as a colon and rectal surgeon) to hear “I was told by my last doctor, that I have diverticulitis.”  As diverticulitis can be a painful condition, the patient is asked about abdominal pain.  The usual answer is, “I don’t have any pain.”

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And therein is the confusion.

The Colon.  What Does It Look Like And How Does It Work?

The colon is approximately six feet long.  It is composed of a lining, the mucosa and submucosa, and muscles, the muscularis propria.  The muscles serve to move digested food through the colon and into the commode, also known as a toilet.  This movement is known as peristalsis.  It is performed by the muscles around the colon.  There is mass movement, whereby the muscles contract in one big contraction.  You may feel this from time to time.  There are also continuous, small  contractions.

There are weak spots in the colon.  They occur at points where blood vessels and verves enter the colon from outside.  As the pressure in the colon rises, these weak spots may push outward, forming sacks, or diverticulae (diverticulum, singular).  When a patient has one or more of these diverticulae, the patient is said to have diverticulosis.  As the pressure throughout the colon is highest on the left side of the colon, also known as the sigmoid colon, the sacks are most numerous in this region.  The condition is not dangerous and many people over the age of 50 years old have diverticulosis.

When, for unknown reasons, one or more of the diverticulae become inflamed, the condition becomes known as diverticulitis.  Again, the inflammation occurs for unknown reasons.

Diverticulosis And Bleeding.

If diverticulosis is present, the commonest complication that may occur is rectal bleeding.  For unknown reasons, bleeding may begin to occur from one of these diverticular openings.  The bleeding may be profuse and require hospitalization and an intervention, either in the X-ray department or in the operating room.  The bleeding seems to happen more frequently in patients on aspirin.

Diverticulitis And Abdominal Pain.

When diverticulitis occurs, patients experience severe, usually left sided abdominal pain, requiring antibiotics and possibly hospitalization.  Emergency surgery may be needed if the diverticulum perforates.

Often, the episode “cools off” by itself and patients can return home.  However, from a statistical point, the chances of having a repeat episode increase with time and with each subsequent episode.  This happens in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and in all big cities of the world.

In the meantime, it is best to keep your stools soft and your fiber intake high, to between 20 and 30 grams of fiber per day so that stool may more easily move through your colon.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

The colon and rectal surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are trained and able to both answer your questions and help you if you experience any of the complications associated with diverticulosis or diverticulitis.  A call to Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates will allow you to begin to attain piece of mind about any of your colon, rectal or anal questions.  (310)273-2310

There is a difference between diverticulosis and diverticulitis.

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