What is Diverticulosis?

When portions of the inner lining of the digestive tract push through weak spots in the outer layer of the digestive tract they form a pocket called a diverticulum. The condition that occurs when this happens is called diverticulosis.

It may involve only a few small pockets on the left side of the colon or several pockets throughout most of the colon. It’s very common in the United States, affecting half of all people over the age of 60 and nearly everyone by the age of 80.

Some people with diverticulosis experience nausea, bloating, abdominal cramps, vomiting, shaking, chills or constipation.

However, in the majority of cases it doesn’t show any symptoms. Because of the absence of symptoms, it’s common for diverticulosis to be diagnosed during colonoscopies or during imaging tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or barium x-ray.

Most doctors believe that it’s at least partially brought on by a low-fiber diet, which causes you to strain more during bowel movements. Straining causes an increase of pressure in the colon and it’s believed that can lead to diverticulosis.

Diverticulosis has not been shown to lead to cancer, but it can cause serious problems if left untreated.

Complications include:

  • Bleeding
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is an infection or inflammation of one of the diverticulum pockets. It causes localized abdominal pain, tenderness and fever. It’s usually diagnosed with a CT scan.

After a bout of diverticulitis, your doctor will typically recommend a colonoscopy 6-8 weeks after the attack to exclude the possibility of colitis or cancer. Prior to your colonoscopy, your doctor may or may not advise you to undergo special preparation. If so, they will guide you through a cleansing routine. Your cleansing routine may consist of:

  • 1-2 enema
  • A limited diet consisting of clear liquids
  • Consuming a special cleansing solution
  • Or laxatives

It’s important to follow your cleansing routine carefully, as any material remaining in the colon or rectum can affect the accuracy of the procedure.

Inform your doctor of:

  • Any medication that you take regularly, especially;
    • aspirin products
    • Clopidogrel
    • blood thinners, such as Warfarin or Herparin
  • Any known allergies to medication
  • Any medical conditions that will require special attention, such as;
    • diabetes
    • heart conditions
    • lung conditions
    • any other major conditions

It’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions.

Fortunately, a lack of symptoms also means that a treatment is not always necessary. Your doctor may recommend a high-fiber diet as a precaution or if bloating, pain or constipation occurs. Fiber can easily be added to your diet through the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Some high fiber foods include:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Baked Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lima Beans

Your doctor may also recommend a supplemental fiber product. These products bulk up and soften stool, making it easier to pass.
In some cases your doctor may prescribe medications to help relax the colon.

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