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Diverticular Disease

What is it?
Diverticular disease affects the large intestine (colon). It is caused by small pouches or sacs that can form anywhere, but usually form in the last part of the large intestine. These pouches are called diverticula. 

There are three types of diverticular disease.

  • Diverticulosis: People with diverticulosis have pouches in the large intestine.  Most people do not have any problems and may not know they have it.
  • Diverticulitis: The pouches become infected and inflamed.  Symptoms can include pain, usually on the lower left side of the abdomen, constipation, vomiting and fever. An attack can develop suddenly and without warning.
  • Diverticular bleeding: This happens when a blood vessel next to one of  the pouches bursts.  You may find blood in your bowel movement or in the toilet.  If you see blood coming out of your rectum, you should call your doctor right away.

Both men and women get diverticular disease and it is common in older people.  Most doctors think it is caused by not having enough fiber and water in your digestive system.  When you don’t eat enough fiber, your stools become hard and you may get constipated. When your stools are hard, the muscles in your colon have to squeeze more to move the stool along.  This extra pressure may cause pouches to form.

You may need a colonoscopy to find out what is going on in your colon.

If you have diverticulosis you should eat a high fiber diet. Add fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet.   Fiber keeps stool soft and lowers pressure inside the colon. Avoid eating nuts, seeds and popcorn. The seeds may get stuck in the pouches and lead to an infection.

If you have diverticulitis, you will most likely be put on antibiotics.  If the infection is severe or you have complications, you may need to stay in the hospital or even have surgery.

If you have bleeding, even in small amounts, you should tell your doctor.