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Diverticulitis 101: What is Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis, found in the large bowel.

By age 50, about half of people have diverticulosis, a health issue in which pockets (or diverticula) form in the wall of the large bowel. In about 5 percent of people, these pockets become infected or swollen, which is called diverticulitis.

  • Diverticulitis can be painful.

  • It often comes about quickly.

  • Diverticulitis may need to be treated with an antibiotic.

  • About 20 – 40 percent of people with diverticulitis have multiple flare-ups, often within five years of the first attack.

  • There are steps you can take to lower the risk of future attacks.

Diverticulitis 102: Symptoms

Symptoms of diverticulitis include:

  • Belly pain and soreness, often on the lower left side.

  • Fever.

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea (loose stool) or constipation (hard stool or trouble passing stool).

  • Nausea.

  • Throwing up.

  • Cramping in your stomach.

  • Chills.

Diverticulitis 103: Getting Tested

Diverticulitis can often be suspected based on your past health issues and a physical exam, though other tests may be needed, as well. Your doctor will talk to you about what is best for you.

CT Test

  • This is the most common test to find diverticulitis.

  • You will either drink a special liquid and/or have the liquid put into your vein, which will help light your organs on an X-ray so that your doctor is able to see them better.

Other Tests

  • Blood test: You may have blood drawn for further evaluation.

  • Stool sample: You may submit your stool to be looked at under a microscope.

  • Digital rectal exam: Your doctor may look at your rectum and feel it using his or her finger.

  • X-ray : An X-ray may help your doctor see inside more easily.

  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy may be performed after you recover from diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis 104: Treatment

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • How can I tell if I am getting enough fiber in my daily diet?

  • Am I healthy enough to start (or carry on with) working out after I get better?

  • Is there any reason I should not take aspirin or other pain relievers?

  • Should I get a colonoscopy?

Uncomplicated diverticulitis is treated with a low-fiber diet, plenty of rest and antibiotics.

Some people with more severe or complicated diverticulitis may be admitted to the hospital for intensive treatment with intravenous antibiotics, drainage of abscesses or emergency surgery.

Once treated, most people start feeling better within a few days. If your diverticulitis keeps coming back, your doctor may think about doing surgery to remove a part of your colon.

There are ways to try to stop diverticulitis from coming back, such as:

Eat a diet that is high in fiber

  • After your diverticulitis is cleared, slowly start adding more fiber to your diet.

  • Try eating at least eight grams of fiber in each meal.

  • Good foods to have in your meals to get more fiber include:

    • Berries.

    • Beans.

    • Green veggies.

    • Grains/oats.

  • Note: You do not have to avoid seeds, nuts or popcorn.

Exercise

  • Working out for 30 minutes three times a week could help stop future attacks.

  • Your workout should get your heart pumping and make you start to sweat.

  • Good workouts include:

    • Jogging.

    • Swimming.

    • Aerobics classes.

    • Competitive sports.

Diverticulitis 105: Complications

Things to Be Aware Of

Issues that could come from diverticulitis include:

  • A block in the colon.

  • An infection.

  • A tear (perforation) in the colon.

  • An abscess.

  • Urinary tract infections.

In rare cases , diverticulitis can be a warning sign for colon cancer.

  • Getting a colonoscopy can rule this out.

  • If you have not had a colonoscopy lately, talk to your doctor about getting one a couple months after you feel better.