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Brochures and Helpful Information

Diverticulosis & Diverticulitis

Definitions

Diverticula (also called diverticulum): are abnormal pouch or sac openings from a hollow organ (in this case the colon).

Diverticulosis: is an intestinal disorder characterized by the presence of diverticula.

Diverticulitis: is the inflammation and infection of a diverticula.

Note:

You can have diverticulosis without having inflammation or infection.

Gastroenterologist: is a physician specialist trained in the study of the physiology and pathology of the stomach, intestines, esophagus, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

Understanding Diverticulosis & Diverticulitis?

Most diverticula occur in the sigmoid colon. It is the job of the sigmoid colon to evacuate stool from the body. This function makes the sigmoid colon a fairly high pressure zone. Small pouches or pockets slowly occur over time along the natural weak points of the bowel wall. The pockets develop because of the pressure exerted within by the contracting colon. Diverticulosis can make the bowel wall thick or narrowed. This may cause changes in bowel habits such as constipation, diarrhea or bloating and discomfort in the abdominal area.

Note:

Diverticulosis is not necessarily confined to the sigmoid colon. It may occur anywhere throughout the gastrointestinal track.

Who gets Diverticulosis?

Western civilization has a higher incidence of diverticulosis. It is not as common in countries where the diet includes a higher fiber content. It takes a long time to develop diverticulosis, however it has been seen in people as young as 30 years of age. Increased dietary fiber may be of significant benefit concerning diverticulosis.

Diverticula of the Sigmoid Colon Diverticula of the Sigmoid Colon   Diverticulum

Complications

Many people have diverticulosis and never have any problems. They may not even know they have it. Occasionally someone may develop a problem such as:

Diverticulitis

The most common complication. Diverticulum may become packed with bacteria and become infected. This may cause mild or extreme tenderness depending on the severity of the inflammation. It requires antibiotics and resting the bowel until the attack passes and the bowel heals. This may or may not require hospitalization. Your Gastroenterologist will advise you as to your course of treatment.

Bleeding

A blood vessel may rupture in a diverticulum and produce a rush of blood from the rectum. The stools may look darker due to blood in the bowel.

Perforation

The least common complication, yet the most serious. A diverticulum ruptures and bacteria enters the abdomen. This complication may require surgical intervention.

Diagnosis

Your Gastroenterologist can determine if you have Diverticulosis or Diverticulitis by performing a Colonoscopy. This exam looks throughout the colon providing valuable information. A Barium Enema may also be ordered to determine the extent of the disease.

It is important to share with your physician a change in bowel habits, abdominal tenderness, bleeding or any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

Diet

The single most important thing you can do for possible prevention and treatment of Diverticulosis is to increase dietary fiber:

High Fiber Foods

  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Fresh fruits
  • Vegetables

Note:

Fruits and vegetables contain beneficial chemicals called antioxidants and contribute to good health. People who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables seem to have a lower incidence of many cancers, including colon cancer.

A high fiber diet itself does not prevent colon cancer, however it does contribute to the overall health of your gastrointestinal system by keeping your bowel mobile and your stools softer. Fiber is definitely beneficial concerning Diverticulosis.

Diverticula

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