Diverticulitis is a condition in which diverticuli in the colon rupture. The rupture results in infection in the tissues which surround the colon. The colon is the large intestine and is a long tube like striation that stores and then eliminates waste material. As a person gets older, pressure within the colon causes bulging pockets of tissue, or sacs, that push out from the colon walls.
A small bulging sac pushing outward from the colon wall is called a diverticulum. More than one bulging sac is referred to as diverticula. Diverticula can occur throughout the colon, but most are common near the end of the left colon. This is referred to as the sigmoid colon. The condition of having these diverticula in the colon is called diverticulosis.
A patient with diverticulosis may have few, if any, symptoms. When a diverticulum becomes infected and ruptures, the condition is called diverticulitis. A patient suffering from diverticulitis experiences abdominal pain and tenderness, often accompanied by fever. Bleeding which originates from a diverticulum is called diverticulitis bleeding.
Diverticular disease is common in the Western areas of the world, but is extremely rare in areas such as Asia and Africa. Diverticular disease increases with age and is uncommon before the age of forty. Most patients with diverticulitis develop bleeding, infection, constipation, abdominal cramps, and occasionally, colon obstruction.
Diverticulosis is the formation of numerous tiny pockets, or diverticula, in the lining of the bowel. Diverticula, which can range from pea size to much larger, are formed by increased pressure on weakened spots of the intestinal walls by gas, waste, or liquid. Diverticula can form while straining during a bowel movement, such as with constipation.
They are most common in the lower portion of the large intestine, called the sigmoid colon. Diverticulosis is very common and typically occurs in people over the age of 40. Most people will have some, if any, symptoms from diverticula.
Complications can occur in about 20% of people with diverticulosis. One of the main complications is rectal bleeding. Another is diverticular infection, called diverticulitis.
Because most people with diverticulosis do not have symptoms, it is usually determined by tests ordered for an unrelated reason. It is vital to visit with a physician to determine if diverticulosis is present. The physician asks questions regarding medical history, including bowel habits, symptoms, diet, and any current medication, and will perform a physical exam. This exam includes a digital rectal exam.
One or more diagnostic tests may be ordered to help diagnose the condition. These tests may include X-rays, CT scanning, a sigmoidoscopy, ultrasound testing, colonoscopy, and blood tests to search for signs of infection or extent of bleeding.
Serious complications can occur as a result of diverticulitis. Most of them are the result of the development of a tear or perforation of the intestinal wall. If this occurs, intestinal waste material can leak out of the intestines and into the surrounding abdominal cavity.
Peritonitis abscesses, and obstructions are some of the results caused by diverticulitis. It is important to maintain good bowel habits to help prevent diverticular disease or reduce the complications from it.