Diverticulitis is a condition of the digestive tract. The symptoms of diverticulitis occur most commonly in adults who are over 40-years-old, but children can sometimes get it too, especially if they are obese. If a person who has it doesn’t receive proper medical care, the condition can become life-threatening.
Because of this risk, those who are having any digestive issues should know what signs and symptoms of diverticulitis to look out for, so they can get treatment in time. This article will discuss some of the most important aspects of the condition, but it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for getting a proper diagnosis from a doctor trained in the field of gastroenterology.
What Is Diverticulitis?
Sometimes, people get a condition called “diverticulosis” mixed up with “diverticulitis.” The words sound similar, but they are in fact two separate health conditions. The best way to differentiate between them both is that diverticulosis produces no symptoms, and diverticulitis does. But what makes it more confusing is that all cases of diverticulitis start out as diverticulosis though.
Diverticulosis is a term that refers to the formation of pockets in the digestive tract, especially the colon. On an x-ray, the outside of the colon will have a zig-zag appearance as the disease progresses. Over time, the colon will be covered in more and more pockets. And any imaging of the area will be difficult to read. So sometimes, doctors have to do other tests or even perform surgery to identify the problem.
The pockets that form all over the colon and digestive tract don’t pose any problems at first. But fecal matter and leftover food particles start to get stuck in them, which causes inflammation to develop. This inflammation shows up when a patient drinks a chalky substance with barium in it that coats the digestive tract. Doctors use a small camera to look inside the colon to see signs of swelling and redness. The pockets will show up too.
What Are the Symptoms of Diverticulitis?
One of the first symptoms of diverticulitis that a person will get is stomach pain that isn’t relieved by over-the-counter remedies. Cramping and pressure in the abdomen are common. Diverticulitis may lead to intestinal obstruction. And as the body tries to fight off the increased amount of bacteria in the digestive tract and colon, a fever and other flu-like symptoms will develop.
But since these symptoms are vague, doctors usually ask patients about their bathroom habits. Diverticulitis turns stools into small pellet shapes, which are similar to the feces of rabbits.
As the symptoms of diverticulitis get worse, the pockets will thin out, and the colon and digestive tract will become more fragile and susceptible to tears. If a tear does occur, the bacteria can spread throughout the body, which can make a person very sick. It will also cause internal bleeding. Diverticulosis is the most common cause of lower gastrointestinal bleeding.
The signs of internal bleeding in the abdomen are weakness, swelling, and blood in the stools that looks like coffee grounds. The skin may also appear bluish as the body starts to starve from not getting enough oxygenated blood. And the skin will turn white and clammy.
Quick-Care Office or ER?
This is a chronic condition that can last for several weeks. So it is best that a person gets treatment from their primary care physician. You may need to visit the emergency room for the following symptoms of diverticulitis:
- Severe Pain
How Long Does Someone Have Diverticulitis?
Fortunately, diverticulitis is curable. Most cases of this condition clear up within two to three months if a person gets proper treatment. However, it is common for other secondary diseases to occur simultaneously with it, and you may follow an additional treatment for those symptoms before you completely recover or heal your body.
What Are the Treatment Options?
Fiber is essential to cleansing the fecal matter and leftover food particles out of the pockets in the digestive tract and colon. It acts as a bulking agent to make the stools firmer, so they clump together to pass out of the body. When the pockets are cleaned out, the inflammation will go down.
Then, the pockets will disappear altogether. So, one should use fiber as the first line of defense against this disease. Health specialists prescribe course fiber to their patients to sprinkle over their morning meal because finely ground fiber doesn’t work as well.
Antibiotics such as Flagyl and Cipro can treat the inflammation from the bacteria. And doctors usually prescribe some type of antispasmodic for the cramping. Experts also suggest that patients eat yogurt or kefir to aid in restoring the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
If there has been a perforation (a hole ) of the digestive tract or colon, doctors will recommend the patient to undergo surgery to repair it. This usually happens in cases when a patient doesn’t know that they have diverticulitis, so the condition worsens to the point where they have to go to the emergency room because of the severity of the pain. Sometimes, doctors have to completely remove part of the colon or digestive tract if the damage is too severe. And this can cause other complications to arise.
#4. Prevention – Proper Diet
Luckily, one can easily prevent the symptoms of diverticulitis by maintaining a proper diet that is high in fiber and low in processed foods. It should consist of whole grain bread and pasta, lean meats, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Patients should completely avoid junk food and sugary snacks because they offer very little nutrition or benefits to the body. They also throw off the intestinal flora that is important to maintaining a healthy digestive tract and colon. Also, it is best to avoid foods that have small seeds which may lodge into the diverticuli thus causing diverticulitis.
Summing It Up
Exercise is also essential to preventing the symptoms of diverticulitis. It stimulates the digestive system. Therefore, the body passes the stools a lot easier. Those who are sedentary have a higher rate of diverticulitis than those who stay active. But this doesn’t mean that someone has to run a marathon to stay healthy. Walking for 30 minutes a day is enough to get things moving.