It’s not uncommon for small, bulging pouches (diverticula) to form in the lining of your digestive tract. The pouches are most often found in the lower large intestine (colon). They develop when weak spots in the colon give way under pressure.
Seldom do the pouches cause problems. But sometimes one or more can become inflamed or infected, a condition called diverticulitis.
Several factors may increase your risk of developing diverticulitis, including being overweight, smoking, not getting enough exercise, and eating a diet high in animal fat and low in fiber.
- Pain, which may be constant and persist for several days (The pain is usually in the lower-left side of the abdomen, but may occur on the right, especially in people of Asian descent.)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal tenderness
- Constipation or, less commonly, diarrhea
If your symptoms are mild, you may be treated at home. This may include taking antibiotics to treat the infection. You may also need to follow a liquid diet while your bowel heals. An over-the-counter pain reliever can treat the pain.
If you have a severe attack or you have other health problems, you may need to be hospitalized. You’ll likely receive antibiotics intravenously. If a pocket of pus (abscess) has formed in one of the pouches, the abscess may need to be drained.
Surgery may be necessary in case of a serious complication, such as perforation, fistula, bowel obstruction, or severe abscess. Surgery may also be needed if you don’t respond to antibiotics or if you’ve had multiple diverticulitis attacks.
LIFESTYLE To help prevent future attacks:
- Exercise regularly. Exercise promotes normal bowel function and reduces pressure inside the colon.
- Eat more fiber. High-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, soften stool and help it pass more easily through your colon, reducing pressure inside your digestive tract.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Fiber can be constipating.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.