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Diverticulitis: Symptoms, Treatments, and Causes

When small pouches, known as diverticula, develop across the walls of a person’s intestines and become infected or inflamed, a condition referred to as diverticulitis occurs. While the forming of these small pouches is a nonthreatening issue called diverticulosis, diverticulosis is far more serious and falls under anything from a small abscess on one or more of these pouches, to a perforation of the bowel, or larger infection.

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Pouches can pop up anywhere within the digestive tract, but generally land on the sigmoid and descending colons on the left side of the body’s abdomen. They also tend to develop on the first section on a person’s small intestine; however, these generally don’t cause any issues.

Below is an overview of the signs and symptoms of diverticulitis, as well as treatment options, and causes.

Signs and Symptoms

While there are very few signs of the diverticulitis, they are quite noticeable, where fever and severe stomach pain is involved.

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The condition falls into two categories, acute and chronic. Acute diverticulitis occurs within one or more significant attacks of inflammation and infection. Meanwhile, with chronic diverticulitis, infection and inflammation can subside; however, they sometimes don’t clear up all together. As such, the inflammation can cause obstruction of the bowel, which results in thin stools, sometimes constipation, bloating or swelling of the abdomen, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Should this obstruction persist, then a patient may experience tenderness and pain in the abdomen that will only heighten, where nausea and vomiting occur.

Treatments

It’s vital to tune into the signs of diverticulitis, as those who experience the symptoms around this condition should see a doctor as soon as possible, to avoid complications. The illness is treated with antibiotics, modifications to one’s diet, and potentially surgery, if need be.

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Mild cases of diverticulitis can be treated with stool softeners, antibiotics (for the infection), a liquid diet, bed rest, and potentially antispasmodics medications. Still, if the patient has developed a severe infection or perforation, they may be hospitalized, and offered an intravenous for antibiotics and food so that the colon is given time to rest. Additionally, a colostomy may be performed, temporarily, so that a patient’s intestine can empty itself out in a bag, which is attached to the front of a person’s stomach.

When a patient suffers from multiple attacks of acute diverticulitis, doctors will remove the affected areas within the intestine once symptoms subside. Additionally, surgery may be needed at times when intravenous therapy is not affective.

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Causes

The primary factors that cause diverticulitis is genetics and aging, with those who are over 40 gaining a 10 percent increased chance of developing diverticulosis, where the number jump to 50 percent for those over the age of 60. It’s important to note, diverticulitis occurs in 10 to 25 percent of individuals who have diverticulosis.

Having said that, diet can play a role as well. Eating foods that are highly refined, and low in fiber, can enhance chances around developing the condition.

Prevention

What’s the best way to prevent diverticulitis? Changes to your lifestyle and diet. Below are some tips:

Fiber, Fiber, and More Fiber: Adding fiber-rich foods to your diet like bran cereals, oatmeal, whole-grains, and fibrous veggies and fruits can help. Having said that, ensure you increase your fiber intake gradually, as sudden switches can create gas and bloating.

Water Consumption: Staying well hydrated can help with bowel movements, so drinking a minimum of eight glasses (eight ounces) of water daily, is recommended; especially when you enhance fiber consumption.

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Avoid Constipation: If you are susceptible to constipation, reach for over-the-counter stool softeners that can be found at any local pharmacy and most big box stores, if you feel a bout coming on. If you use laxatives or suppositories when the issue arises, ensure to talk to your doctor before using over a long-term. It’s important to note that specially formulated teas, prunes, and prune juice are all excellent (and organic) laxative sources. If you find an occasion where your constipation persists, even after trying other methods to relieve it, reach out to your doctor, as there are prescription medications that can help, if all else fails.

Avoid Refined Foods: Stay away from white rice and flour, as well as other processed foods.

Exercise: Regular physical activity can help maintain tone within your intestine muscles, and aid bowel movements along.

Go, When You Have To “GO”: If you feel the need to go number 2, don’t ignore or delay it, as this can ultimately cause constipation in the long run.

Source: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/understanding-diverticulitis-basics

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