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What Is Diverticulitis?

Woman suffering from diverticulitis
Stomach issues are a common concern as we grow older. With age, many people begin to notice that they feel sick more often, typically linked to how they eat. If you notice certain symptoms, you may be living with diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis is especially painful. The condition can lead to serious issues and requires a visit to the doctor. Not sure what diverticulitis is? This guide will help you better understand the condition.

Causes

The diverticula are small pockets inside the colon that often form with age. Individuals over the age of 40 are more likely to develop these pockets than others. When these pockets become inflamed or develop an infection, an individual has diverticulitis.

Inflammation is often the result of bacteria developing inside the gut. Bacteria may move into the diverticula, leading to intense symptoms. No two cases of diverticulitis are exactly alike, so each case may be a bit different.

Risks

Researchers suspect a genetic link increases the risk of developing diverticulitis because it seems to run in families. While researchers are still looking for the specific link, preliminary studies suggest some form of genetic correlation.

Eating too many processed and red meats may also lead to diverticulitis. Diets high in fat seem to lead to common diverticulitis bouts. Individuals who are overweight may also be at higher risk for the condition. Researchers are still trying to figure out why this is, but it may be linked to a sedentary lifestyle with a high-fat diet.

Smoking may exacerbate diverticulitis as well. Individuals who are concerned about stomach issues may choose to stop smoking.

Symptoms

The most common symptom associated with diverticulitis is abdominal pain. The pain is more likely to occur on the lower left side of the abdomen.

Fever is also commonly associated with diverticulitis. Paired with symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, the condition may initially be easy to confuse with the flu or food poisoning.

Issues with bowel movements are incredibly common. While some people experience constipation, others complain of intense diarrhea. In either case, patients may also see blood in their stools.

Bloating is a serious issue among individuals with diverticulitis, but the symptom is commonly confused with irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience these issues, you should talk to your doctor.

Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose diverticulitis after performing a series of tests and asking about symptoms. Many of the tests are used to rule out other potential problems.

Your doctor may first run some blood tests, which can look for kidney and liver issues. Blood tests can also rule out anemia.

The doctor also wants to further examine the gastrointestinal tract. Imaging tests, ultrasounds, CT scans, and colonoscopies, can allow medical professionals to examine your GI tract more thoroughly. Stool tests allow the doctor to rule out certain infections of the GI tract.

Treatments

Diverticulitis does typically require medical care. Failure to seek medical care can lead to severe health issues.

Antibiotics may treat the condition for many individuals facing infection of the diverticula. For instance, a doctor may prescribe amoxicillin to treat infection.

Some patients may require surgery to recover from diverticulitis. Affected sections of the colon can be removed, relieving some of the pain associated with the condition and potentially preventing further instances of the condition.

Prevention

You may be able to prevent diverticulitis by ensuring that you maintain a heavy amount of fiber in your stomach to act as a prebiotic. Fiber helps to keep your stool healthy and shaped.

People who exercise are less likely to experience diverticulitis. Sedentary lifestyles are associated more commonly with diverticulitis.

NEON takes your healthcare concerns seriously. We understand your need for compassionate, experience healthcare. Set up an appointment with one of our professionals to learn more about your stomach concerns.