Symptoms of Diverticulitis

When the lining of intestines gets pushed through the muscle walls and pouches forms, diverticulosis occurs. When these pouches due to diverticulosis become infected or inflamed, diverticulitis, a very painful condition happens. Some research suggests that low fiber diet may cause diverticulosis because less dietary fiber leads to lack of stool bulk, increasing the pressure on the intestines. But what cause the infection that leads to diverticulitis is yet to find out.

Symptoms of Diverticulitis

The symptoms of diverticulosis are mostly non-specific and can arise from many abdominal conditions. But having any of these symptoms below does not confirm the diagnosis of diverticulosis but it is important to consult a health care professional for further evaluation.

The most commonly observed symptoms of diverticulitis include:

  • Fullness and bloating feeling
  • Pain abdomen: it can be severe and the most common site of pain is the right side of lower abdomen.  
  • Blood with stools: there can be some fresh red or maroon blood mixed with stools. It usually clears by itself but warrants urgent medical attention and further investigation.
  • Constipation: constipation is the hallmark of diverticulitis but there can be diarrhoea.
  • Fever with chills: this indicates severe infection and in case of fever a doctor must be consulted.
  • Nausea and vomiting: persistent nausea and vomiting indicate some complication and must be promptly treated.
  • Severe infection can even lead to abscess formation and can cause intestinal perforation.

Complication

Diverticulitis can lead to some serious complications and there is a fair chance of some serious medical complication, if someone with diverticulitis develops:

  • Persistent fever
  • Persistent constipation
  • Worsening belly pain
  • Pain or burning sensation when urination
  • Uncontrollable vomiting and inability to consume any liquid and food
  • Bleeding coming out of rectum

Seek Medical Help

Patients must seek urgent medical advice and need hospital admission for further evaluation and treatment, if the following symptoms of diverticulitis are experienced:

  • Abdominal pain for an extended period of time, which usually happens to the lower-left abdomen
  • Fever for an extended time without any reason
  • Diarrhea for an extended time
  • Vomiting for an extended time
  • Chronic urinary tract infection, which means this infection does clear for long or recurs often

How to Diagnose Diverticulitis

The diagnosis of diverticulitis is most commonly made during an acute episode. It is a diagnosis of exclusion since many conditions cause the same symptoms as diverticulitis.

  • A detailed history about the symptoms of diverticulitis and a thorough physical examination are necessary.
  • Blood tests may also be performed and the commonly ones are complete blood count, liver function tests, urine complete examination and others to rule out the infection.
  • A pregnancy test is required for women of child-bearing age.
  • Stool test is also done to detect the presence of infection.
  • The final diagnosis is based on CT scan. The pouches can be clearly visualized on a CT scan and the extent and severity of the disease can be assessed.

How to Treat Diverticulitis

The treatment strategy depends upon the severity of the symptoms of diverticulitis:

1. Mild Cases

Patients having mild symptoms are normally treated at home with oral antibiotics, painkillers and liquid diet. More than three quarter of patients respond to the treatment well and get better within a week.

2. Severe Cases

To treat diverticulitis when any complication is suspected a hospital admission is necessary. The infection is treated by strong I/V antibiotics and a drain might be needed for aspiration of pus from the abscess.

3. Very Severe Cases

Surgery is the last resort of treatment and is reserved for very severe cases.

  • It can be a partial resection where only the affected part of large intestine is removed and the normal parts of the intestines are re-connected. This can be done laparoscopically if the affected area is not too big.
  • Sometimes the disease process is so severe that it is not possible to re connect the intestine after removing the affected part. In these rare circumstances, an opening is made in the tummy which is known as colostomy. A bag is attached which collects the waste products and stool drained through colostomy opening. This can be a temporary measure. After the intestine heals, it is possible to reconnect both the ends for restoration of normal functionality.

4. Follow-up Checks

A colonoscopy is usually advised after the acute attack of diverticulitis is over and there are no signs of infection. It is necessary to rule out the possibility of any other serious underlying medical problem.

5. Prevent Diverticulitis

Symptoms of diverticulitis can be prevented by adopting healthy habits.

  • Regular exercise leads to better intestinal motility and less constipation leading to a reduced risk of diverticulitis.
  • Having plenty of fibre in the food promotes intestinal health and diets like fruit, vegetables and grains increase the stool bulk and make its passage through the intestines easy. Since there is less pressure on intestinal walls, they are less likely to develop pouches.
  • Drinking plenty of water is essential for normal bowel function. The fibre absorbs water to form most of its bulk, and without enough water it can be difficult to get rid of the extra fibre in the intestines. Make sure you stay properly hydrated to prevent constipation and diverticulitis.
 
 
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