What Is Diverticulitis & How To Prevent It From Happening?
Diverticulitis is a painful condition that affects the digestive tract and colon. When you eat, food travels through your digestive tract and into your colon. In a healthy person, this food moves slowly through the colon, but in someone with diverticulitis, the walls of the colon are weak, allowing pockets of infection or sacs – diverticula, to form in the digestive tract. And although It’s a common problem for people over 40 years old, it can happen at any age. There are many symptoms associated with diverticulitis; some of them are mild and go away quickly, while others are severe enough to require hospitalisation. Here’s what you need to know about this condition and how you can prevent it from happening to you.
Signs and symptoms
Diverticula usually form when already weak places in your colon succumbs to pressure, which is why they tend to develop as you age. Diverticulitis occurs when the diverticula tear, resulting in inflammation and infection, resulting in marble-sized pouches protruding through the colon wall.
- Abdominal pain, usually on the lower left side of the abdomen, that gets worse when you move around or eat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Blood in your stool (a sign of an infection)
- Constipation and, in some cases, diarrhoea
Causes and risk factors
Certain factors may increase the risk of getting diverticulitis – like ageing, especially, as aforementioned. Obesity, smoking and the not enough exercise also appear to contribute to a weakened colon, and people with these risk factors tend to be more susceptible to experiencing diverticulitis. On top of that, a diet with a high consumption of animal fat in combination with a low-fibre diet has also been suggested to put you at a higher risk of diverticulitis. Less known are the side effects of certain clinical drugs, such as opoids, steroids, and any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen sodium and ibuprofen, that are associated with this condition as well.
Complications from acute diverticulitis
The complications from acute diverticulitis can be serious, with approximately 25% individuals suffering from acute diverticulitis developing complications. These may include:
- An abscess that is produce when pus forms and collects in the digestive pouch. Abscesses will usually grow larger over time and may need to be drained with either surgery or antibiotics.
- A blockage of the bowel as a result of scarring. This can be very painful to live with and may well require surgery to correct the blockage.
- An abnormal passageway, or fistula, forming between sections of other organs and the bowel. In order to repair them, fistulas are often treated with antibiotics or surgery.
- Peritonitis, a more critical complication where the inflamed or infected pouch ruptures, spilling contents from the intestine into the abdominal arera. Peritonitis is a medical emergency requiring immediate care.
Diverticulitis is painful, unpleasant, and sometimes even life-threatening. Awareness is the first step towards prevention so that you can take certain steps like increasing your fibre intake, losing weight if you’re overweight, quitting smoking and staying active to minimise your risk of experiencing this disease. And if you need help from an expert, a gutCARE specialist from one of our abdominal pain clinics in Singapore can provide you with the specific information that you need, as well as treatment options for all your complications, including colon cancer treatment.