Diverticulitis is a condition that occurs when diverticula on the gastrointestinal tract become inflamed or infected. Such problems with the diverticula usually occur after they have been torn open.
What Are Diverticula?
Diverticula are little pouches that protrude outward from the intestines. These diverticula are harmless, and are even quite common among those over the age of 40. Normally, you will find diverticula forming in the lower end of the large intestine, also called the colon.
Common Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Patients that have been diagnosed with diverticulitis normally report signs and symptoms such as:
- Pain and tenderness of the abdomen, usually lasting for several days
- Nausea and vomiting
It is always advised to seek medical attention if you are experiencing constant pain in your abdomen. This pain could be a warning of many different types of diseases or injuries, all of which require proper diagnosis and treatment by a licensed medical professional.
Adequate rest and antibiotics are often all that is needed to treat cases of diverticulitis that are detected early on, which is what happens a majority of the time. However, you may experience more severe symptoms and complications as the condition worsens over time.
Potential Complications of Diverticulitis
Individuals who are already dealing with an advanced case of diverticulitis are at risk for several serious conditions, including:
- Blockage of the colon or small intestine
- Formation of a fistula
- A collection of pus within the diverticula
- Peritonitis, which will happen if the infected diverticula ruptures and spills its contents into the abdominal cavity
All of these situations can cause the patient’s health to deteriorate quickly, which is why you should see a DOCTOR as soon as possible if you suspect you may have diverticulitis.
Even though diverticula are common, that does not make them something that you necessarily want to have growing on the walls of your intestines. In order to keep these diverticula from forming and developing into diverticulitis, you should:
- Manage a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
- Add more fiber to your diet.
- Stay hydrated.
- Quit or avoid smoking, as smokers are twice as likely to develop diverticulitis.
- Pay attention to potential side effects of any new medication you begin to take, especially when it comes to opiates, steroids, and NSAIDs.