The term refers to a group of conditions that occur together and involve the development of pockets in the colon wall, including diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and diverticular bleeding. Diverticulosis is diagnosed when pockets form in the intestinal wall, and diverticulitis describes an infection that has developed in these pockets, called diverticula.
If you have diverticular disease, you may notice lower abdominal cramping, alternating constipation and diarrhea, fever, or chills. These symptoms are associated with diverticulitis; diverticulosis generally doesn’t present symptoms and is only found through testing for unrelated reasons.
If you suspect you may have diverticulitis, call your doctor to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. He or she will review your medical history, ask about your signs and symptoms, perform a physical exam, and likely perform a digital rectal exam. In addition, he may order X-rays, ultrasound, CT scan, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or blood tests to find out more information about your condition.
Though diverticulosis doesn’t usually require treatment, diverticulitis can cause serious complications if left untreated. Because diverticulitis can cause a perforation in the wall of the intestine, waste can leak from the bowel into the abdominal cavity, causing an infection in the abdominal cavity called peritonitis, abscesses in the abdomen, fistula, or bowel obstruction in the intestine. Treatment depends on the problem identified but usually requires lancing or surgery.
Diverticulosis is caused by pressure on weak areas of the wall of your colon. This pressure results from stool that remains in the bowel too long before being passed or stool that is too hard or too bulky. There are several steps you can take at home to prevent diverticulosis:
If you suspect diverticular disease for any reason, it’s important to see a doctor who specializes in disease of the colon and rectum as soon as possible.
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