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Diverticulitis

What is Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is an inflammation or infection of the diverticula, which are outpouches that develop in walls of the colon. In most cases, the inflammation or infection develops when the openings to the diverticula become blocked with waste. As a result of the blockage, bacteria are allowed to build up in the area and this leads to infection.

Symptoms

A person suffering from this condition may experience a number of symptoms including:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Pain in the abdomen (most often in the lower left quadrant)
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Since these symptoms are associated with a number of other digestive disorders, it can be difficult to diagnose. In order to determine if it’s the problem, the doctor will first ask a series of questions about the patient’s bowel habits, diet, and other potential risk factors. A digital rectal examination may also be performed. Other methods include x-rays, ultrasound, CT scanning, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and blood tests.  These tests will look for a thickening of the inflamed area, and screen for abdominal palpation and an elevated white blood cell count.

Treatment

Once Diverticulitis has been diagnosed, it may not be necessary to perform any type of medical treatment because it does occasionally resolve itself. Maintaining a low fiber diet and consuming large amounts of water can help clear up the problem without the need for medical intervention. After the infection dissipates, a high fiber diet can usually be resumed. In fact, it is recommended to follow a high fiber diet after the infection clears to help prevent digestive problems from occurring in the future.

In the majority of cases, antibiotics are prescribed to help fend off the infection.1 In severe cases, intravenous antibiotics may be necessary along with a brief hospital stay. In rare cases, it may be necessary to have the infected area surgically removed. When this occurs, the patient is placed under anesthesia and an incision is made into the abdomen.  After the infected portion of the colon is removed, the two healthy ends are sewn back together.

Effects

Untreated Diverticulitis can lead to a number of serious complications, most of which arise when a portion of the colon wall becomes torn or perforated. As a result of the tearing, waste matter can leak from the intestine into the abdominal cavity. This can cause serious health problems such as:

  • Abscesses – Infections in the abdomen that become “walled off”
  • Peritonitis – An infection of the abdominal cavity that is very painful
  • Obstructions – Blockages in the intestine
  • Fistulas – A connection between two organs or between an organ and the skin

If an abscess occurs, it may be necessary to insert a needle into the area to drain the fluid.  It may also be necessary to perform surgery to cleanse the abscess and remove the infected portion of the colon.  If peritonitis develops from the infection, surgery is needed to cleanse the cavity and remove the damaged colon. If left untreated, peritonitis is fatal.

The infection resulting from Diverticulitis can also cause scarring, which can cause part or the entire colon to become obstructed. If the scarring creates only partial obstruction, emergency surgery is not usually needed.  However, if the colon becomes completely blocked, emergency surgery is necessary.

The most common form of fistula to develop is a connection between the bladder and the colon.  In this case, surgery will also be necessary in order to remove the fistula from the colon.

As always, seek a second opinion from a qualified digestive health physician before considering treatment. Stay well hydrated, engage yourself in stimulating exercise several times a week, get enough rest at night, and perhaps most importantly—follow a healthful diet with high amounts of fiber, low amounts of processed foods, and containing plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

1 Although the medical profession states drugs and/or surgery are the only options for this condition, the Editors of this website believe effective natural methods such as eating only organic foods, taking all-natural health supplements, and improving lifestyle habits can help you alleviate symptoms and achieve optimal health.

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