BY DEAN PAPPAS M.D.
The doctors at Colon & Rectal Surgical Specialists of New York offer advanced treatments for colorectal conditions. We have helped numerous patients at our offices serving Garden City, East Setauket, and other parts of Long Island, NY.
Over the years, we have helped patients treat and manage diverticulitis. This inflammation affects the colon. Here, our team will examine the causes of diverticulitis, and also note a number of risk factors for the condition. We should start by defining some terms, since there can be some confusion about the nature of diverticulitis.
What Is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis often gets confused with diverticulosis. Both are types of diverticular disease, but they are very different. Let’s break down the basics.
Diverticula are small bulges that develop along the inner walls of the colon. The diverticular can be as small as a pea, though they can also be much larger.
The mere presence of diverticula in the colon is known as diverticulosis.
When these diverticula become inflamed and infected, that is known as diverticulitis.
What Causes Diverticulosis?
The exact causes of diverticulosis are unknown. However, scientists speculate that diverticula are caused by constipation. The straining and high pressure in the colon causes the diverticula to develop along weaker areas of the colon wall. This has led some researchers to believe that low-fiber diets contribute to diverticulosis, though recent studies have questioned this.
It’s also assumed that genetics plays a role in diverticulosis. If your parents or other relatives developed diverticulosis, you are more likely to experience the condition as well.
What Causes Diverticulitis?
These intestinal pouches can become worn, and tear. If one or more intestinal pouches becomes inflamed or infected, this results in diverticulitis. In essence, the presence of diverticula in the colon increases the risk of developing diverticulitis.
Risk Factors for Diverticulitis
The following are some common risk factors for diverticulitis:
- Age – Diverticulitis is more likely after the age of 40.
- Gender – Men are more likely to develop diverticulitis than women.
- Body Mass – Diverticulitis is more likely to occur in people who are overweight or obese.
- Diet – Individuals who consume high-fat, low-fiber diets are more likely to suffer from diverticulitis. The same is true for diets high in red meat.
- Physical Activity – Individuals who do not exercise and lead sedentary lifestyles are at higher risk for diverticulitis.
- Use of Tobacco Products – Smokers are more likely to develop diverticulitis.
- Use of Certain Medications – Diverticulitis is more common among people who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and steroids.
Signs and Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Some common signs and symptoms of diverticulitis include:
- Intestinal pain, often along the lower left side of the abdomen
- Abdominal tenderness
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Blood in your stool
If you experience any of the above symptoms, be sure to speak with your doctor as soon as possible.
Getting the Treatment You Need
With early detection, diverticulitis can be controlled and managed with antibiotics. More invasive procedures can be used if needed. During a consultation with our colorectal specialists, we can discuss what treatment options are right for you.
Contact Colon & Rectal Surgical Specialists of New York
If you suffer from diverticulitis and would like to learn about your options for treatment and management, our team can help. To schedule a consultation, call our doctors at (516) 217-8626 or contact our colorectal surgery specialists online.