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Diverticular disease

by Etienne Moore — last modified 2008-10-16 13:15

Diverticular disease is a very common condition in mature people especially in the Western World.  It is thought that people develop diverticular disease because there is not enough bulky moist fibre in their diets.  This means that the colon has to squeeze hard to move the food around to the anus and this may result in blow-out bubbles on the surface of the colon and this is diverticular disease, also called diverticulosis.  These little bubbles can often be left alone and they do not turn cancerous.  Once formed they never go away.

Unfortunately they can sometimes become blocked with a little pellet of faeces or something like a pip and they can then become inflamed.  This is called diverticulitis.  Diverticulitis can cause abdominal pain, often on the left side of the abdomen, and sometimes this is very severe.  It can also cause bleeding from the anus.  A course of antibiotics is usually effective in treating diverticulitis. 

Rarely the diverticulitis can perforate which can require an emergency operation and stoma bag.  If the diverticular disease becomes troublesome and reduces quality of life then an elective operation to remove the diseased segment of colon and join the bowel back together again may prove helpful.  This can now be performed by keyhole or laparoscopic surgery.

Patients with diverticular disease are advised to maintain a high fibre and high fluid intake diet.  This can be as simple as drinking an extra glass of water in the morning.  It is not recommended that you drink the extra water in the evening or you may have to get up during the night to pass urine.  An extra apple in the morning can be a good way to add fibre or alternatively snack on prunes, dates or figs during the day.  Some say that patients should avoid pips and nuts because these may get stuck in the diverticular bubbles and cause infection but there is no hard evidence to say that this is actually the case.

Diverticular disease is diagnosed by a colonoscopy or special X-Ray such as barium enema or CT cologram.  It is important that patients with worrying abdominal symptoms are investigated properly by a qualified specialist before a diagnosis of diverticular disease is finally given because other conditions such as bowel cancer can give the same symptoms.

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