As people age, some develop small pouches in the lining of their intestines, which is referred to as diverticulosis. This is often found during the routine colonoscopy performed at age 50. A small number of people with diverticulosis will have one or more of these pouches become infected or inflamed, and this condition is referred to as diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is very painful and can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and fever. Although, the cause of diverticulitis is unclear, contributing factors may be a low fiber diet resulting in hard stool which increases the amount of force the colon must use to push stool through the intestines. This increased force results in the formation of the small pouches which become infected in diverticulitis.
A gastroenterologist will likely do a physical exam followed by blood or urine tests, and a CT scan. A CT scan can show the presence of inflamed pouches to help confirm the diagnosis of diverticulitis. If the diverticulitis is mild, it is often treated with antibiotics and a liquid diet to allow your intestines to heal.
However, if not detected and treated early, diverticulitis can cause serious problems that require surgical removal of part of the colon. To prevent diverticulitis from progressing to this level, it is important to schedule regular visits with your gastroenterologist. If you have a history of diverticulitis, your odds of having another episode are significantly increased. Together, you and your gastroenterologist, can formulate a plan to help prevent future episodes and maintain a healthier colon, reducing your need for surgery further down the road.