The formation of small sacs on the colon (diverticuli) is a common problem. 50% of the population will develop diverticuli by the age of 60. The development of these sacs is known as diverticulosis. Like a garden hose that becomes weakened and "bubbles out", the colon can do the same thing. This is most often due to a low fiber diet. This requires the colon to "squeeze harder" to move the bowel movement through. Because of small weaknesses in the colon wall where the blood vessels enter, when the colon squeezes these diverticuli can form here.
Many people that have diverticulosis have no symptoms. Occasionally they can cause bleeding or become infected (diverticulitis). Patients with diverticulitis may experience pain, often in the left lower quadrant of the abdomen, chills, fever or a change in bowel habits. Severe cases of diverticulitis may be associated with abdominal infections (abscess), drainage tracts that lead to the vagina or bladder and sometimes rupture of the colon requiring an emergency operation. Chronic infections can lead to narrowing of the colon, also known as a stricture.
Many cases of diverticulitis can be treated without the need for surgery. Changes in diet, medicines to control pain, cramps and changes in the bowel habits and antibiotics may control mild to moderate attacks of diverticulitis. Severe attacks may require hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics and pain medicines. Surgery is indicated for recurrent attacks of diverticulitis, attacks that do not improve with medicine and complications of diverticulitis, including perforation and stricture. Your doctor can recommend the best treatment depending on your specific symptoms.
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