Diverticula are pouches that form on the lining of the colon, where weak places give way under pressure. As a result, marble-sized pouches push through the colon wall. If your colon has diverticula, you have a condition called diverticulosis.
Diverticulosis is quite common; it occurs in about 10% of people who are older than 40 and 50% of people older than 60. Diverticulosis usually doesn’t cause problems, and most people won’t even know the diverticula are present.
When diverticula become inflamed, you develop another condition, called diverticulitis. This painful condition can cause serious and persistent discomfort, usually in the lower left side of the abdomen. Diverticulitis can also cause nausea and vomiting, fever, constipation, and abdominal tenderness. Less commonly, diverticulitis causes diarrhea.
Whether or not diverticulitis goes away on its own depends on your particular case. If you do need treatment, Dr. Bharat Pothuri at GastroDoxs can help. Regardless, if you have symptoms of diverticulitis, reach out to our office. Dr. Pothuri can monitor your at-home healing or intervene if you need treatment.
Types of diverticulitis
Diverticulitis can show up in one of two ways. About 80% of people with diverticulitis have uncomplicated diverticulitis, which is diagnosed when the diverticula and surrounding tissue are inflamed, but have no abscesses. The inflammation is localized.
Complicated diverticulitis affects just 20% of diverticulitis sufferers. It’s diagnosed when abscesses form and inflammation spreads beyond the immediate surrounding tissue. Complicated diverticulitis can also cause intestinal perforation, or tearing of the intestinal wall.
Anyone can develop diverticula, but the risk increases as you age. Obesity, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle also make development of diverticulosis more likely. People who eat a diet high in animal fat and low in fiber and who take certain steroids, opioids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have an increased risk, too.
Treating uncomplicated diverticulitis
In about 95% of cases of uncomplicated diverticulitis, the condition goes away on its own within a week. In the other 5% of cases, Dr. Pothuri uses antibiotics, dietary changes, and monitoring to make sure no complications develop. Surgery for uncomplicated diverticulitis is rare.
Treating complicated diverticulitis
Most cases of complicated diverticulitis clear up within a few weeks of having treatment with antibiotics, but about one in five people need surgery.
Dr. Pothuri may do a minor procedure to drain pus-filled abscesses. If improvements in your symptoms don’t happen in a couple days, he will recommend surgery. Your risk of complications increases the longer the abscesses and intense inflammation persists. Intestinal perforation is serious and requires surgery.
If your complicated diverticulitis goes away with antibiotic treatment, Dr. Pothuri may still recommend surgery to prevent diverticulitis from recurring. If diverticulitis does return, it may be more severe and lead to additional complications. The doctor discusses the pros and cons of having this surgery with you so you can make an educated decision.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of diverticulitis, it’s important to get an evaluation from a skilled gastroenterologist like Dr. Pothuri. If you’re in the Greater Houston area, contact us to set up an evaluation. Call today or book an appointment online.