Diverticulitis is a condition wherein one or more diverticula (tiny, protruding pouches that can develop in the lining of your gastrointestinal tract) become infected and inflamed.
Diverticulitis shouldn’t be confused with the condition diverticulosis, which signifies the mere presence of diverticula.
Diverticulitis is quite common and usually develops in people as they become older.
The symptoms of diverticulitis can consist of the following:
- Severe pain in the abdomen (often on the left side and sometimes the right side)
- Lower abdominal cramps
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in stool
- Frequent and painful urination
The exact cause of diverticulitis isn’t exactly known. Still, doctors try their best to explain the catalyst behind diverticulitis, and they do so by chalking it up to an insufficient intake of fibre.
Inadequate fibre intake results in the accumulation of waste in your colon. This excess waste (constipation) puts your colon wall under extra pressure. And as a result, diverticula, i.e., tiny pockets, start to develop in your colon’s weak spots.
Further, when bacteria in your stool find their way into the diverticula – the infection begins. And when your diverticula’s opening gets blocked by faeces, the tiny pouches become inflamed and cause diverticulitis.
The following factors can increase the probability of you developing diverticulitis:
- Old age
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Consuming a diet rich in fats and low in fibrous foods
- Taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Taking drugs like steroids or opioids
If you experience any of the above symptoms of diverticulitis, you should reach out to a doctor for a diagnosis.
Usually, the doctor asks you about the symptoms you are currently experiencing, your medical history, the kinds of food you typically eat, how frequently you urinate, and other bowel movement-related questions.
And, if you take any medication, the doctor also assesses your prescription.
Besides this, the doctor conducts the following tests to confirm the diagnosis of diverticulitis.
Blood and Urine Tests
These tests are done to check the presence of an infection.
Stool Sample Test
In this test, a sample of your stool is collected to check whether you have atypical bacteria in your stool.
In this test, you go through a scanner which produces images of your intestinal area on a screen.
The images help the doctor to know whether you have any inflamed diverticula as well as identify the severity level of diverticulitis.
This test involves the insertion of a camera-attached, lighted tube into your rectum and then the sigmoid colon.
With the help of the attached video camera, the doctor can check and see the location of the inflamed diverticula.
Similar to sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy also involves the insertion of a camera-attached, lighted tube into your colon.
This helps the doctor check for inflamed diverticula and, at the same time, rule out other causes like sores, ulcers, cancer, etc.
This test is only conducted if you experience severe rectal bleeding. This test involves the insertion of a harmless dye into your arteries in the colon area.
It helps the doctor to identify the source or origin of the bleeding.
The treatment of diverticulitis depends on its severity level.
Mild-moderate diverticulitis treatment
In the case of mild to moderate diverticulitis, the doctor recommends certain medicines (antibiotics) to treat infection, such as amoxicillin, metronidazole, etc. The doctor also prescribes painkillers to help with abdominal pain.
Besides this, the doctor recommends specific dietary modifications. This involves following a liquid diet for some days and avoiding a fatty food-rich diet.
Once your bowel heals and, symptoms become less intense, you can gradually go back to eating your normal diet of solid food, a major portion of which should now consist primarily of fibre-rich food.
Severe diverticulitis treatment
In the case of severe diverticulitis or having experienced many episodes of mild diverticulitis, you will require hospitalisation to receive intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
Furthermore, in case you suffer from any one of the following diverticulitis complications, you will also require surgery:
- Abscess: An infected pocket of pus that develops, particularly in the colon and abdominal region.
- Strictures: Previous colon infections can leave scars in your colon, leading to strictures or complete or partial obstruction in the colon wall.
- Fistula: A passage that can develop and abnormally connect your colon to your bladder, skin, uterus, etc.
- Peritonitis: Peritonitis occurs when stool or pus leaks into the abdominal cavity as a result of a tear in the colon. This condition is fatal and requires quick medical intervention.
Depending on the degree of inflammation you suffer from, you might undergo an open surgery procedure or a minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery procedure for the following two types of surgeries for diverticulitis –
Primary Bowel Resection
In this surgery, the surgeon extricates the damaged parts of your intestine and reconnects the healthy parts.
Undergoing this surgery enables you to have regular bowel movements in your life.
Bowel Resection with Colostomy
In case you suffer from inflammation such that it’s very difficult to reconnect your rectum and colon, you will need to undergo a colostomy.
In this surgery, the surgeon connects the healthy part of your colon to an opening in the wall of your abdomen. This opening allows waste to flow through and collect in a colostomy bag.
Finally, once the inflammation ebbs away, the surgeon reverses the colostomy and reconnects your bowel.
Diverticulitis is a condition wherein the tiny pouches (diverticula) in your digestive tract lining become infected and inflamed. This can cause severe abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, rectal bleeding, etc.
In this scenario, it becomes essential to consult a gastroenterologist.
And for that, you can visit and get in touch with our gastroenterologists at the CK Birla Hospital or book an appointment with Dr Prof. Amit Javed. Our gastroenterologists use the latest technology to perform tests for the diagnosis of diverticulitis. Our specialists in the Department of GI, Bariatric & Minimally Invasive Surgeries believe in delivering compassionate healthcare services with a customised treatment plan for diverticulitis, depending on your severity level.