One of the many joys which often occurs in middle age is diverticulitis. This condition is marked by an awfully long name, which is also difficult to spell. As we age, so too does our bowel. Wear and tear, caused by years of use, can weaken the wall of the large intestine. Small openings, called diverticulae (also no easy task to spell) are the result. Bits of stool can become stuck in these little pockets and cause infection or diverticulitis. Risks for getting this condition besides being middle aged or older include constipation, which weakens the walls of the large intestine and a low fiber diet which hardens the stool.
How does this disorder present? Well, you feel kind of tired with a aching pain in your belly, especially in the lower portions. There may be a low grade fever, you might even have bloody stools. More serious cases might have a rigid belly with high fever, extreme weakness and vomiting.
To diagnose this disease a CT scan of the abdomen is usually done. The CT will also pick up some of the complications including a rupture of the bowel with a small pus pocket or a bowel which has stopped working and is dilated. In addition, the scan might diagnose some conditions which can mimic diverticulitis including colon cancer, aneurysms of the aorta and kidney stones.
If your doctor finds that the diverticulitis is mild, then you can be treated as an outpatient. You will be given antibiotics and should drink only clear liquids for a few days. As you improve, you should follow a high fiber diet in order to help prevent another attack. More serious cases will need to be hospitalized, and antibiotics will be given intravenously. Your bowel will be given a complete rest-no foods or liquids and you will receive fluids through your veins.
Complications include pus pockets, bleeding and even a generalized abdominal infection called peritonitis.
So the next time that you have a little tummy ache which doesn’t go away and especially if y0u have had diverticulitis in the past, see your doctor or visit us in the emergency room. It might be nothing serious, but then again you might not regret making that doctor visit.