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Diverticular Disease
What Is Diverticular Disease

What Is Diverticular Disease?

Diverticular disease is a common condition which affects the digestive system. It develops when small areas of your bowel lining weaken and form bulges or pouches, known as 'diverticula'. This usually happens over the course of many years, and as such the disease becomes more common as you get older.

It is thought that a low-fibre diet is the main cause of Diverticular disease. In particular, those with a diet that has a high intake of red meat and fat and a low intake of fruit and vegetables are more susceptible to developing the condition.

There are three stages to Diverticular disease:-

  • 1. Diverticulosis: A person may have diverticula without displaying any symptoms, meaning the bulges in the lining of the bowel are usually only discovered when tests are done for a different purpose. Having diverticula without experiencing any symptoms is therefore known as Diverticulosis.
  • 2. Diverticular disease: However, if the diverticula do cause symptoms, then the condition is known as Diverticular disease.
  • 3. Diverticulitis: This is when the diverticula become inflamed, making the patient very ill.

Symptoms of Diverticular Disease

People with Diverticular disease may experience the following symptoms:-

  • Abdominal pain, particularly on the left-hand side which may develop after eating;
  • Bloating;
  • Flatulence;
  • Constipation;
  • Diahorrea.

Symptoms of diverticulitis include:-

  • Constant and severe abdominal pain;
  • Fever;
  • Frequent need to urinate;
  • Pain when urinating;
  • Changes in bowel movement;
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Diverticular Disease

Diagnosis of Diverticular disease can be difficult, as the symptoms are often mistaken as signs of other illnesses, notably irritable bowel syndrome.

However, if diverticula are present in the bowel, they can usually be detected by a number of tests, including a CT scan, a barium enema, or a colonoscopy.

If a positive diagnosis is made, then treatment will depend upon how advanced the disease has become. Patients presenting in the early stages will be advised to take paracetamol for stomach pain, in addition to increasing the amount of fibre in their diet and taking bulk-forming laxatives.

If the condition has progressed to Diverticulitis, a patient will need further treatment. Antibiotics should be prescribed if infection is present, and fluids and energy should be administered through a drip.

If the diverticula burst or a patient is experiencing severe pain, then surgery may be required. A surgeon may deem it necessary to perform a colonic resection, which sees the affected part of the bowel removed and the healthy areas joined together. If an area of the bowel is removed, a patient may temporarily need a colostomy bag to help the colon recover.

Can Diverticular Disease Be Prevented?

The risk of developing Diverticular disease can be reduced by taking the following measures:

  • Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet;
  • Drinking plenty of fluids;
  • Exercising (particularly jogging, rowing or swimming);
  • Avoiding medicines that cause constipation (such as opiate-containing painkillers).

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