Diverticulitis is a disease of the colon. It occurs when pouches develop on the colon wall. Once the pouches become inflamed or an infection sets in, extreme pain can be felt. As of now, doctors are unable to determine what causes this painful condition but some researchers have narrowed it down to several possibilities. Many believe that it is the result of a low-fiber diet. Fiber is essential to add bulk to the stool and without it the colon has difficulty pushing the stool forward and down. As a result, the stool remains inside the colon for longer than it should, which could be the cause of the formation of pouches along the colon wall.
Research is not clear if this is really the cause but the growth of bacteria is a logical cause of the resulting inflammation or infection. Still, even without a clear understanding of what causes diverticulitis, it is beneficial to learn the diverticulitis signs, symptoms, and treatments so we can get the relief we need when a flare-up occurs.
Symptoms of Diverticulitis:
Diverticulitis is not a chronic condition and the symptoms may last for as little as a few hours or for as long as a week or more. They can include abdominal pain, usually on the lower left side that may increase in intensity when you move, fever and chills, bloating of the stomach, and painful gas accompanied by diarrhea or constipation. Some people also complain of nausea and vomiting, and loss of appetite as well.
Because the condition is not chronic it may not be easy to get a diagnosis. Usually the pain and other symptoms dissipate well before you can get to the doctor’s office. In addition, the symptoms you experience are not necessarily exclusive to diverticulitis and could also be symptomatic of other conditions as well.
However, a visit to your doctor and a detailed explanation of your symptoms should prompt him to look a little deeper into your problem. He may do several tests to determine if you have an infection or to check for other medical issues that may be triggering it. Expect to have blood drawn so he could do a complete blood count, and an X-ray or a CT scan so they can get a good visual of what’s going on inside your body. Once a diagnosis is complete, he will discuss with you a number of treatment options.
Who is at Risk?
While diverticulitis can occur in just about anyone, studies have shown that age puts people at a higher risk. The precursor to the disease diverticulosis, usually appears in most people at around age 60. This condition usually does not require treatment and symptoms are often very minor but can be more serious. If not treated, it can eventually develop into diverticulitis. The younger you are when diagnosed the higher your risk of developing the condition in your later years.
What Can You Do About It?
The best treatment for diverticulitis will depend on the severity of your symptoms. The first option would probably be a recommendation for a change in diet. Your doctor may put you on an all liquid diet in the beginning and gradually begin to introduce solid food as your condition begins to improve.
If your condition is more severe and you’re having extreme pain, he may also start you on a course of antibiotics and pain relievers. These will more than likely bring you quick relief from your discomfort and you may be tempted to stop taking them once you are feeling better. However, because these medications are working to fight infection, it is best for you to continue to take them even after you feel that your health has improved. This will help prevent the infection from coming back and causing another flare-up.
There are other things you can do to relieve your pain and other symptoms of diverticulitis. If the pain is mild consider using a heating pad set on low. Place the pad across the painful area of the belly and it will help to relax the muscles that may be cramping.
Some people have found positive results with meditation or other relaxation exercises. Try taking slow, deep breaths, or removing yourself from external stimulus. Sitting in a quiet room with nothing to listen to but the sound of your breath can be a wonderful exercise even when you’re not in pain.
If the pain and cramping is not too severe, there are also over-the-counter medications you can try. Taking acetaminophen, another over-the-counter pain reliever or muscle relaxer can help to ease the pain of diverticulitis.
If the condition continues to escalate and nothing brings relief, your doctor may recommend surgery to relieve your suffering. This is usually the case when the infection in the colon has caused a bowel obstruction, a fistula, or an abscess. However, it is important to understand that this is recommended almost as a last resort. Ideally, you would want to try less invasive procedures first and resort to surgery only when there is no success with the other forms of treatment.
While we still do not understand everything we need to know about this disease, countless research and studies on diverticulitis signs, symptoms, and treatments have helped to bring relief to many people. Diverticulitis is a painful condition that affects millions of people every day. In most cases, it is within your power to prevent the infection from developing. Doctors recommend that you make sure that you drink plenty of fluids every day and regularly eat meals high in fiber. Other studies have shown that regular exercise can also help in reducing the risk of infection.
Obviously, we all want to avoid developing this painful disorder and the good news is that it is possible. If you want to learn more about diverticulitis signs, symptoms, and treatments it is strongly recommended that you have a serious conversation with your doctor. By following his directions it is possible for you to get relief from your pain and get back to the business of enjoying life as it should be lived.