Overview of Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
We use the term diverticulosis to describe the formation of a crease or a pouch/pocket between the muscle fibers in the gastrointestinal tract. This can occur in any of the areas of the digestive system including the esophagus, stomach, as well as in the small and large intestines. However, we usually talk about this in terms of the colon or the large intestine.
The cause of this condition is unknown though it is very much more common in the western world and is thought to perhaps be on the basis of the western diet. Diverticulosis is quite common-more common than not after the age of 50 in the United States. Most people with this have few or no symptoms though cramping and bowel irregularity can be seen. If one of the pouches or pockets becomes infected, this is called diverticulitis. This is rare in the population of individuals with diverticulosis but can be very serious and can require antibiotics and sometimes even surgery. Diverticulitis can be difficult to diagnose, often laboratories and CT scans are used. It should be noted that if diverticulitis is thought present, colonoscopy is best avoided until it resolves on treatment.
Complications from Diverticulosis
Diverticulosis is the most common cause of important lower GI bleeding in the elderly. It is usually painless and can be massive in nature requiring hospitalization and transfusion and even occasional emergency surgery. Bleeding is not a feature of diverticulitis, this usually presents with lower abdominal pain and fever.
Treatment of Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis does not tend to run in families and is not associated with colon cancer. Symptoms from diverticulosis are usually managed conservatively with fiber and other dietary adjustments, sometimes medication such as antispasmodics are useful. There are no known preventative measures for diverticulitis and the consumption of foods with small seeds, peanuts and popcorn does not seem to be a factor, so restriction of these foodstuffs is not usually required.