Diverticulitis is a frequent medical condition affecting the large intestine. It is commonly reported in people over the age of 50. Both genders are equally affected.
Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
It is essential to differentiate two quite similar medical terms called diverticulosis and diverticulitis. The first one, diverticulosis, is a condition characterized by small pouches in the lining of the colon (the large intestine) that bulge outward through weak spots. Each of these pouches is known as a diverticulum. If there is more than one diverticulum, a person is said to have diverticula and the very condition is referred to as diverticulosis.
Diverticulitis, on the other hand, represents inflammation of these pouches. So, only if diverticulum or diverticula get inflamed, the person is suffering from diverticulitis.
Scientists have not managed to identify the actual trigger responsible for inflammation of diverticulum/ diverticula. However, it is believed that the inflammation may develops due to improper diet. For instance, it is a well known fact that fiber present in fruit and vegetables improves bowel movements and prevents constipation. Constipation is one of potential contributors to formation of diverticulum/diverticula. Now what leads to inflammation of these pouches still remains unknown and hopefully one day we will finally solve this mystery.
Diverticulitis Clinical Characteristics
Prior inflammation, diverticulum/diverticula cause bloating and cramps and sometimes may be blamed for bleeding which is in a form of blood in stool.
Diverticulosis is more complex condition accompanied by rather severe symptoms. For instance, inflammation of the pouches inside the large intestine is a cause of tenderness, discomfort or even pain in the abdomen. Furthermore, one complains about bloating and may have fever with chills. There is also a lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting. If inflammation is severe, it may cause bleeding. Patients generally feel unwell and almost all of them seek immediate medical attention.
Diverticulitis is not a benign condition. It can easily progress and cause many complications some of which are even life-threatening. For example, diverticulitis is a potential contributor to grave infections, severe bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract and perforation/blockage in the colon. Fortunately, with adequate treatment, all of the mentioned can be prevented or successfully treated.
Many times patients completely recover with dietary changes, plenty of rest and certain medications. More severe cases require intravenous antibiotics and sometimes patients must be surgically treated. Once the symptoms of inflammation are brought under control, one is due to make dietary changes and eliminate all the foods that may trigger recurrent inflammation. In order to be sure what to eat and what foods to avoid one should consult a well-experienced dietitian.