Your digestive system can develop small pouches called diverticula in its lining, especially after age 40. Usually, these do not cause any problems. However, if these pouches become infected or inflamed, they can cause abdominal pain, fever, chills, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and other symptoms. This condition is called diverticulitis, and it can range from mild to severe. In Garden City, NY, and East Setauket, NY, our doctors are experts in diagnosing and managing diverticulitis and many other colorectal conditions. We use the most advanced technologies for diagnosis and treatment, and always begin with the least invasive solutions possible. If you are suffering from symptoms of diverticulitis, make an appointment with our caring, experienced specialists today.
Causes and Symptoms
Diverticula develop most often in the large intestine, although they can also occur in the small intestine. The pouches or sacs become infected when small pieces of waste become trapped inside and create the infection or inflammation that results in diverticulitis. Though the exact cause of the pouch formation is not known, it is thought that constipation and hard stools contribute because they lead to straining and increased pressure in the colon or intestines. Symptoms often begin suddenly and may become worse over the course of a few days. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- Pain or tenderness that is usually in the lower left side of the abdomen, though it may occur on the right
- Bloating or gas
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation and, less commonly, diarrhea
If you have symptoms of diverticulitis, you should seek treatment as soon as possible. In addition to being uncomfortable, symptoms can lead to more serious complications including fistulas (abnormal connections between the colon and other parts of the body), constriction and perforation of the colon, and abscesses that can rupture.
Diverticulitis can have symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. Severe cases will often require hospitalization and emergency surgery. Most people over the age of 50 have diverticulosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To evaluate you for diverticulitis, our surgeons may use blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, a rectal exam, and other tests or imaging techniques. Women may be given additional tests and exams to rule out pelvic disease and pregnancy as the cause of abdominal pain. Treatment for diverticulitis is based on its severity. Uncomplicated diverticulitis has mild symptoms that can be treated at home. Our doctors may recommend a special diet along with antibiotics to treat infection. This treatment is successful in the vast majority of cases. Complicated diverticulitis involves severe symptoms and complications. This is potentially very serious and may require colon resection surgery to remove the damaged or diseased tissue. Only a small number of patients require surgery for diverticulitis. Your doctor will likely recommend a colonoscopy after you have healed.
Sometimes abscesses (pockets of infection) can be drained without surgery. Your doctor accesses the pocket through your skin with a needle to remove the infection, or may place a temporary plastic drain into your abdomen.
Avoiding Future Attacks
To help prevent further attacks, your doctor may recommend that you focus on lifestyle changes that help keep your colon working properly. Regular exercise facilitates normal bowel function, which reduces the internal pressure on your colon. A fiber-rich diet also facilitates function by softening waste and helping it pass more quickly. You must drink enough liquid to replace the water that the fiber will absorb so you do not become constipated. Our doctors can give you additional advice specific to your unique lifestyle and condition.
Typically, diverticulitis is mild and responds well to treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of this condition, contact our friendly team today.