Diverticulitis is a disorder of the colon where small pouches in the wall of the lining called diverticula become infected. This happens whenever the diverticula tear due to being weak. While diverticula are a normal occurrence in people over 40, it is only when they become inflamed that there is a problem. This causes patients extreme pain, typically on the left side of the stomach.
As of now, there is no known cause of diverticulitis. However, some doctors believe that a diet that is low in fiber may be a contributing factor as it causes the colon to strain more, creating diverticula. Additionally, obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and certain medications can increase a patient's risk.
In addition to extreme stomach pain, there are other symptoms that patients may experience. These include bloating, increase in gas, fever or chills, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and not wanting to eat.
Typically, the abdominal area is tender, and pain increases whenever the patient moves. It may also last for several days without relief. Because these symptoms are non-specific to diverticulitis, it is important for a patient to see a doctor confirm their diagnosis.
First, doctors confirm diverticulitis by using a blood test, X-ray, or CT scan. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment depends on how severe the symptoms are. For simple cases, treatment can include antibiotics, a liquid diet to give the bowel a chance to rest, and over the counter pain relief medication. They might also direct patients to use a heating pad or relax to relieve stomach pain.
For more severe cases, patients may require intravenous antibiotics or a drain tube. In the worst cases, surgery is sometimes required to resection the bowel to remove the diseased part of the colon.
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