Overview of diverticulosis
Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are two conditions that occur in the large intestine (also known as the colon). Both are called diverticular disease. They both share a common feature of diverticula. Diverticula are one or more pockets or bumps that form in the wall of your colon.
Who gets diverticulosis?
Diverticulosis is a common condition in the United States that affects half of the people over the age of 60 and almost all people over the age of 80. As a person ages, the walls in the digestive tract become more prominent. Diverticulosis is rare in people younger than 40 years old. Also, it is rare in some parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa.
Diverticula usually develop when naturally weak places in your colon give way under pressure. This causes marble-sized pouches to protrude through the colon wall. Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula tear, resulting in inflammation, and in some cases, infection.
Diverticulosis is more common in people over the age of 60. This does not happen often to people under the age of 30. Experts hope that pouches will look more with age. Men can get more than women.
Research shows that this condition is genetic. That means if you have parents or one of your brothers or sisters, you are more likely to get it.
Symptoms of diverticulosis
Diverticulosis is usually asymptomatic (without symptoms). However, when there are many diverticula (pouches), it can affect the normal proper functioning of the intestine. It can cause a wide variety of symptoms:
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Constipation and diarrhoea
- Anaemia from repeated bleeding may occur.
These symptoms are very similar to those of bowel cancer. Diverticulosis is more common, so these symptoms are more likely to be caused by diverticulosis than cancer. However, a specialist will generally evaluate these symptoms, your doctor will prescribe them.
Your doctor will often find that you have diverticulosis while testing for a different disease. For example, during a routine colonoscopy, your doctor may see a diverticulum.
During an attack, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. They may also perform blood, urine, and other tests to detect infections and rule out other causes. Computed tomography (CT) is used to diagnose diverticulitis.
Most people can self-medicate if their diverticular disease is mild, mainly with the help of pain relievers and taking more fibre.
Pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen should be avoided as they increase the risk of internal bleeding and can also cause an upset stomach. Acetaminophen is recommended for the prevention of diverticular disease pain. Acetaminophen is available for purchase without a prescription or online.
Eating more dietary fibre, which contains fruits and vegetables, can help resolve symptoms by helping stool. Sometimes this can take weeks.
Bulk laxatives can help people with constipation. It is important to drink plenty of fluids with these medications. People who experience heavy or persistent rectal bleeding should see their doctor.
People with high amounts of fibre in their diet are less likely to develop diverticula. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fibre per day, from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Your doctor may also recommend a raw bran or fibre product. It is important to gradually increase your fibre intake and drink more water to maximize bowel movements.
Physical activity also reduces the risk of diverticulosis. Many doctors have previously recommended that people with diverticulosis avoid eating a diet rich in nuts, popcorn, and seeds. This limitation has not been shown to prevent diverticulitis.