Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

Diverticulitis: what is it, symptoms, causes, prevention

The digestive system can be affected by several health problems: Diverticulitis, also known as diverticular disease. 

According to certain statistical data, it is estimated that between 5-10% of the general population has diverticula of the colon. This pathology is more frequent in patients older than 50 years. 

It should be noted that, in its early stage, it does not cause discomfort and is called diverticulosis. Two pathological processes start from the same illness, but one does not cause symptoms (diverticulosis); the other presents severe symptoms and complications (Diverticulitis).

In this article, we will explain what Diverticulitis is, its causes, and how to prevent this disease.

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulosis is diverticula, that is, bags (sales) that form in the colon and do not cause discomfort. However, most patients who suffer from it do not present any symptoms. It is a pathology usually developed in patients over 50 years of age.

Now, when these diverticula that usually develop on the left side of the colon (sigma) become inflamed, they can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and other symptoms. In these cases, the doctor may prescribe treatment to relieve symptoms, including rest.

So, we can say that when we talk about diverticulosis, we refer to the presence of diverticula in the colon. Still, when we speak about Diverticulitis, we refer to the disease in its chronic stage. 

It is a painful intestinal disease that can cause symptoms and complications due to internal pressure on the colon, causing it to become inflamed and sometimes infected. 

If not treated correctly, it can cause complications that can put the patient’s health at risk.

Causes of diverticulitis

Due to intraluminal pressure, the sacs or bags (diverticulosis) develop in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. 

This situation gives rise to the pulsation of the mucosa (herniations). Thus, specific causes can affect the appearance of this formation and then their inflammation.

  • Constipation
  • Consume red meat in excess
  • A low fiber diet
  • A high-fat diet, obesity

The formation of diverticula and intraluminal pressure is closely related to constipation due to the pressure exerted by patients when passing stools.

What are the symptoms of Diverticulitis?

As we have explained previously, in diverticulosis, there are no symptoms. It is estimated that 80% of patients with diverticulosis are asymptomatic. Now, about Diverticulitis, we can point out the following symptoms:

  • Continuous or intermittent abdominal pain.
  • Cramps or pain in the lower abdomen.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Change in bowel rhythm, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Tiredness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diverticular bleeding in the stool, accompanied by dizziness or weakness.

Diverticulitis complications

In general, Diverticulitis can be treated at home. However, if the patient does not seek medical attention and allows the symptoms to spread, complications may occur, which are:

  • Infection. Pus can develop in the pockets, causing infection.
  • Obstruction. Intestinal obstruction may occur.
  • Peritonitis may develop. These cases are severe because the bag of pus breaks due to pressure, dispersing the content in the abdominal cavity. Peritonitis has caused the death of almost 40% of patients.

How is Diverticulitis diagnosed?

The symptoms associated with inflammation of the intestinal diverticula may be similar to others, such as colon cancer. In this sense, several tests can be carried out to verify this pathology and rule out the others.

  • Colonoscopy. This test is usually done when the inflammation has passed when the pain has stopped due to fecal deposition or gas expulsion.
  • Ultrasound, plain abdominal radiographs
  • Abdominal and pelvic computed tomography

Occasionally, a pregnancy test may be prescribed for female patients to rule out a problem associated with a possible pregnancy.

It should be noted that if the symptoms become severe or complicated, hospitalization will be necessary to administer antibiotics and analgesics intravenously.

Treatment of Diverticulitis

Fortunately, this type of condition has treatments to relieve symptoms. However, it will be enough to consume foods rich in fiber and antispasmodic drugs to ease constipation or prevent some complications in its early stage.

However, chronic Diverticulitis requires complete rest, antibiotics to reduce fever, and a liquid diet. 

However, when the patient cannot take the medication orally, or the pain is very acute, hospitalization is required, so the treatment is as follows:

  • Bed rest. The patient should avoid sudden movements.
  • Intravenous hydration. If the patient can consume, they can be given to drink orally.
  • Absolute diet. You will not consume any food until the specialist considers it appropriate.
  • Antibiotics This is necessary to reduce possible infection and bring down the fever. Usually placed intravenously
  • Intravenous analgesics.
  • Nasogastric tube. If the patient presents vomiting, intestinal spasms, or abdominal distention, it may be an intestinal obstruction, so the use of a box will be necessary to decompress the intestine.

Surgery or an emergency operation will be required in complicated or severe cases.

Can Diverticulitis be prevented?

Although all the causes that can favor the development of diverticula are not widely known, what is known so far allows preventive measures to be taken to reduce the appearance of diverticulosis and then Diverticulitis. 

Here are some preventative tips.

  • Healthy diet. A balanced diet that includes greens, vegetables, and fruits can provide fiber, which reduces constipation, one of the most common causes of Diverticulitis.
  • Drink liquid. Water can soften stools. 
  • Perform exercises. It is recommended to do some exercise daily, which favors the functioning of the intestines.
  • Avoid harmful habits. Smoking or drinking alcohol can affect the appearance of intestinal bags, so it is recommended to avoid these destructive practices.