Diverticulitis, a relatively common condition for older adults, is commonly marked by belly pain, bloating, diarrhea, and even vomiting. Because the symptoms manifest in ways so similar to other digestive disorders, it often goes overlooked or even misdiagnosed until the condition progresses. Knowing the common symptoms as well as who is at risk for developing the condition will help you differentiate your symptoms of diverticulitis and assist in accurate diagnosis.
What Is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is a condition that occurs as pouches, or diverticula, form in the wall of the colon. The pouches that form can catch food particles as well as bacteria that pass through the colon. Over time, the pouches may become inflamed or even infected, causing this very painful condition. Depending on the severity of the condition, you may experience various levels of symptoms. Nonetheless, common symptoms of diverticulitis include:
• Pain in the lower left side of the stomach that may worsen with movement
• Fever and chills
• Bloating and gas
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Nausea with occasional vomiting
• Loss of appetite
Doctors are unsure of the exact cause of diverticula; however, it is suggested that these pouches form in naturally weak sections of the colon. As these areas give way, the marble-sized pouches push through the colon wall. As the diverticula tear and became inflamed, the pain associated with the condition occurs. This is also what leads to infection.
Who Is At Risk for Diverticulitis?
While there is no single definitive cause of diverticulitis, a number of factors have been identified that contribute to the development of the condition. The risk of developing diverticulitis increases with:
• Age – The condition occurs in 10 percent of individuals over 40 and in 50 percent of individuals over 60.
• Excessive weight – Being seriously overweight significantly increases your chance of developing diverticulitis.
• Smoking – Those who smoke are more likely to develop the condition than those who do not.
• Lack of exercise – Individuals who exercise vigorously regularly are less likely to develop the condition.
• High fat/low fiber diet – A diet high in animal fat and low in fiber appears to be a contributing factor to the condition, though the exact role is unclear.
• Certain medication – Several drugs, including steroids, opiates, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis.
What Does Diverticulitis Treatment Involve?
To accurately diagnose your condition, you doctor will ask about your symptoms and perform a comprehensive exam. In addition to these measures, your doctor may do additional testing to locate any infection and rule out any other issues. Blood tests, such as a CBC, and other tests, such as an X-ray or CT scan are common diagnostic tools.
Specific diverticulitis treatment depends on the severity of your condition. You may be put on a liquid diet at first. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe pain medication and antibiotics. For mild cramps and discomfort, you can use at-home remedies, such as a heating pad, relaxation, and over-the-counter medication.
Diverticulitis is a common condition that affects the colon of older individuals. In most cases, it can be managed effectively with minimal treatment and at-home care; however, you should never ignore abdominal pain and discomfort as they could be signs of a more serious condition.