What is diverticular disease?
Diverticular disease refers to the presence of what are called ‘diverticula’ (singular: diverticulum) in the wall of the bowel. A diverticulum is a ‘pouch’, or hollow indentation in the bowel wall - type of a small hernia. When present, they are referred to as ‘diverticulosis’ and it is only when these diverticula are inflamed or infected that the condition is referred to as ‘diverticulitis’.
Diverticular disease covers both of these conditions. However, the term is generally used where there are symptoms or when the diagnosis has been made and tests like colonoscopy or screening have been carried out.
Many people suffer from diverticulosis with no symptoms or ill effect. In fact, one-third of Australian population over 45 years old (and half of those over 70) suffers from this condition.
Diverticulitis symptoms and treatment largely depend upon the severity of the condition.
According to a recent study, a low fiber diet causes diverticular disease. As a low fiber diet requires more pressure when emptying the bowel and thus, the pressure that leads to the formation of the diverticula.
When the diverticula become infected or inflamed (diverticulitis), which is relatively rare, the following symptoms may appear:
- Stomach pain or tenderness on the left side
- Nausea and tiredness
- Appetite loss
- Fevers, chills, shakes and/or night sweats
- Bleeding from the bowel
Diverticulitis generally heals on its own or with the assistance of antibiotics. However, increasing persistent pain and fever may indicate an abscess or rupture and in this case emergency medical treatment is required. Early diverticulitis symptoms and treatment can lead to swift recovery.
Diverticulitis is generally treated with a liquid-based or low fiber diet for a short period (around a month) to rest the bowel, followed by a high fiber diet to stop recurrence. Assessment of diverticular disease is with either a colonoscopy or CT scan.
If you require consultation for treating diverticulitis, please contact us.
Dr Raaj Chandra consults at Elgar Hill Medical Suites (Box Hill). Call today on (03) 9895 7100.