Diverticular disease is a common disorder of the large intestine (colon) which involves two conditions namely diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Diverticulosis is a condition which occurs commonly in individuals aged 40 and above where small pouches form in the lining of the large intestine. These are often the weak spots. When these pouches are inflamed, the condition is known as diverticulitis. Diverticulosis and diverticulitis combined together is the diverticular disease.
A low-fibre diet is often the cause for diverticular disease. Lack of fibre content in the food we eat makes the stools very hard, resulting in constipation. You may need to strain a lot during bowel movement, which may cause the colon to bulge out through the weak spots in its lining. Inactive lifestyle or lack of exercise serves as a risk factor for diverticulosis. If the stools get collected in the pouches, inflammation may set in, causing diverticulitis. Most people may not have any discomfort, but some people complain of severe cramps in the lower part of abdomen, bloating, constipation and blood in the stools.
A computed tomography (CT scan) is the most common diagnostic test used. Other tests include
- Blood test – It is done to detect infections.
- Stool sample – It is done to detect bleeding in the intestinal tract.
- Digital rectal exam: Your doctor will examine the rectum by passing a gloved finger to check for any bleeding or a blockage.
- X- ray and barium enema
A diet containing lots of fibre and fluids can help reduce symptoms of diverticulosis. The American Dietetic Association recommends an intake of 20-35 grams of fibre per day. Fibre containing products such as methylcellulose (Citrucel) or phylum (Metamucil) can be taken up to three times a day.
Your doctor will prescribe an oral antibiotic, pain reliever and advise bed rest. A liquid diet is recommended in order to rest the colon. If the symptoms of diverticulitis recur and you do not respond well to the antibiotics, your doctor may recommend surgery which involves removal of the affected part of the colon (colon resection).