What is Diverticulosis?

Diverticula are small outpouchings of the digestive tract, most commonly found in the colon. Usually, these pockets are benign, but sometimes they can become inflamed due to pressure or loose stool lodged in the pockets. The process of diverticula becoming inflamed is called diverticulitis. An individual suffering from diverticulitis can experience abdominal pain, nausea, fever, or changes in bowel habits. Mild forms of diverticulitis can be treated, while severe or recurrent diverticulitis may need surgery. The incidence of diverticulosis increases drastically by age from less than 20% incidence at age 40 to 60% incidence at age 60. Additionally, the incidence of diverticulitis increases with age, and approximately 5- 15% of patients with diverticulosis develop diverticulitis. 

What causes Diverticulosis?

There are a few risk factors that are associated with developing diverticulitis. Most importantly diet has a large effect on diverticular symptoms. Individuals who have low fiber, high red meat, and a high-fat diet have a higher predisposition to develop diverticulitis. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals who are obese and have low activity levels are at a higher risk of developing diverticular disease.

What are the symptoms of Diverticulosis?

Individuals who have diverticulosis may have no symptoms for their entire life. However, some patients may experience rectal bleeding or diverticulitis symptoms. A patient suffering from diverticulitis may feel extreme abdominal pain usually on the left side. Other symptoms might include fever, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, or urinary complaints such as urgency or burning on urination. If you experience chronic abdominal pain, it is best to contact your doctor.

How to prevent and treat Diverticulosis?

To prevent diverticulitis it is very important to change your diet to incorporate more fiber-rich foods. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good forms of fiber-filled foods that will help waste pass through the digestive system more easily. Additionally, you should increase your water intake and exercise regularly. It was previously thought that individuals with diverticulosis should avoid seeds and nuts, but that has been unproven. If you have mild symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you start a liquid diet until your symptoms resolve. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, you will probably be required to be hospitalized with antibiotic treatment and possible surgery. For more information on treatments click here.

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