What Is Diverticulitis?
Most people experience digestive discomfort from time to time. However, severe gastrointestinal inflammation requires medical intervention and sometimes surgery. As people get older, sometimes small bulges form in the large intestine. Often, these pouches don’t cause any problems. In other cases, these pouches can become inflamed or infected, known as diverticulitis. What are the symptoms of diverticulitis? And when should patients consider surgery?
1. Severe pain
The causes of abdominal pain can be challenging to pinpoint. In cases of diverticulitis, the pain is often localized to the lower left side of the stomach. However, in some people, especially those of Asian descent, the right side may be in severe pain instead. This pain typically lasts for several days and is constant.
2. Digestive problems
Commonly, digestive inflammation causes constipation. In some patients, however, diverticulitis can cause diarrhea. The condition also can cause abdominal tenderness and discomfort.
3. Fever and vomiting
If someone is throwing up, has a fever and nausea, but doesn’t have the flu, diverticulitis may be to blame. If a fever is present, always seek medical attention right away. Mild cases of the condition may respond to antibiotics and rest. In other cases, further treatment may be needed.
When do I need surgery?
Doctors may recommend surgery when a person has recurring episodes of diverticulitis or complications from the condition, such as a fistula or bowel abscess. During the operation, the doctor removes the diseased parts of the intestine and reconnects the healthy segments. Depending on the severity of the condition, patients may be candidates for minimally invasive surgery.
Alternate treatment options
In mild cases, patients may not need surgery. Instead, treatment may include antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers. Doctors typically recommend resting for a few days and following a liquid diet while the bowel heals. For most people who do not have complications, these treatment methods work well.
Causes and risk factors
A person’s chances of getting diverticulitis increase after the age of 40. Being overweight or inactive can also contribute to a person’s risk. Smoking cigarettes, frequent use of certain drugs, or eating lots of fat and not enough fiber can all lead to diverticulitis.
A few lifestyle changes can help people lower the risk of diverticulitis. Regular exercise promotes good colon health, as does eating more fiber. Choose fiber-rich foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. With an increase in fiber, people should drink plenty of water. For more information about diverticulitis symptoms and treatment options, speak with a healthcare provider.