According to one study, in those who have had one episode, around 39 percent of individuals have another acute attack within five years 5. And another study found that the first attack is typically the worst one.
This may be because scar tissue builds up in the diverticula and helps prevent future perforations. So, if your first episode was mild, you have a good chance of avoiding serious complications 5. But for some, diverticulitis can progress into a chronic, or long-term, problem.
For these people, the condition can be much more serious. Surgery to remove the diseased tissue is generally considered 6. While there are several risk factors for diverticulitis, the key risk factor is age. The older you get, the higher your risk of developing this condition. Diverticulosis, the precursor to diverticulitis, is very common in older adults, especially those over In people over age 70, 60 percent have diverticulosis, while 75 percent of people 80 years and older have the condition 2 , 7 , 8. However, young people have their own level of risk.
A study found that the younger you are when receiving a diagnosis of diverticulosis, the higher your risk is of the condition progressing to diverticulitis 9. They do agree that the root cause of the condition is fecal matter blocking the opening of diverticula, which leads to inflammation and infection. However, they think the reasons for that blockage can vary from person to person 3 , Multiple factors seem to lead to diverticulitis. For instance, constipation is no longer considered a risk factor Unlike diverticulosis, diverticulitis often causes symptoms that range from mild to severe.
These symptoms can appear suddenly, or occur slowly over a few days Pain in the abdomen is the most common symptom. It typically occurs in the lower left side of the abdomen. The condition most often affects the part of the colon in that area. The most common symptoms of diverticulitis include 8 , Blood in the stool, as well as bleeding from the rectum, can occur in both diverticulosis and diverticulitis.
Research reports up to 17 percent of people with chronic diverticulitis experience bleeding 3. Call right away if your abdominal pain is worsening or if you have abdominal pain along with bleeding or more severe symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Many health conditions can cause symptoms similar to those of diverticulitis. Therefore, your doctor may do several types of tests to rule out other causes. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, health history, and what medications you take. They may also do a digital rectal exam to check for bleeding, pain, masses, or other problems.
Your doctor may also order other tests, such as the following 3 , 21 , Most cases of diverticulitis — about 75 percent of them — are uncomplicated. This means they have no other problems besides the actual inflammation or possible infection from the diverticulitis itself 8.
If you have uncomplicated diverticulitis, your doctor will likely recommend some type of treatment, possibly at home. If you stay at home, your doctor will likely suggest that you get lots of rest and fluids as you recover from your symptoms.
In the meantime, your doctor may prescribe or recommend treatments such as medication, a liquid diet, or a low-fiber diet. To treat any infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, such as metronidazole Flagyl, Flagyl ER or amoxicillin. Your doctor may also suggest over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen Tylenol , to ease your discomfort.
Your doctor may suggest that you have only clear liquids for a few days. This diet can give your digestive system a rest while you recover 6 , As your symptoms improve, or if your symptoms were very mild to begin with, your doctor may recommend a low-fiber diet while your digestive system is recovering Your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy six to eight weeks after your first episode of diverticulitis. About 25 percent of people with diverticulitis develop complications during acute episodes.
The more complications that occur, the more serious the condition becomes.
Symptoms that are more likely to occur with complicated diverticulitis include fever, bleeding from the rectum, blood in the stool, nausea, and vomiting 8. The complications caused by diverticulitis can be very serious and even life-threatening.
They often require procedures or surgery. The more common complications are listed below. Diverticulitis typically causes tiny perforations in the diverticula. This can lead to peritonitis , which is inflammation and infection within the abdominal cavity. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and rigid abdominal muscles 3 , Treatment for peritonitis is emergency surgery to remove the damaged part of the colon and clean out the abdominal cavity.
Removing the damaged intestine is known as a large bowel colon resection , or a colectomy. With this procedure, the diseased tissue is removed, and the healthy parts of the colon are reattached. A colostomy can be temporary or permanent 8. Abscesses and phlegmons can form along the wall of the colon. Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment for abscesses and phlegmons can include antibiotics. In more serious cases, surgery may be done to remove the affected tissue 3. In some cases, abscesses can also be treated using percutaneous drainage. With this treatment, a tube is inserted through your skin and into the abscess to allow the pus to drain 3 , 6.
A fistula is an abnormal connection between two organs, or between an organ and the skin. A fistula caused by diverticulitis typically connects the colon with the bladder, the vagina, or the small intestine. Symptoms depend on the type of fistula. Symptoms can include painful urination and abnormal vaginal discharge.
Usually fistulas require surgery to repair the fistula and surrounding tissue and remove the affected section of the colon Obstructions , or blockages, of the colon can occur if a stricture forms. It sets the tone for a mellower, happier day. Make it attainable and realistic and you'll feel good at the end of the day seeing all those check marks. Halfway through your morning and through the afternoon, make a point to stand up and walk around. Walk around your office, take a stroll down the block, whatever you have time for.
Do this as often as possible. Be in the moment.
Get outside if you have time and walk, read a book, or just take in the day for whatever amount of time you have. My husband and I like to mix things up by going on hikes with our dogs, visiting the beach, going to the movies, out with friends, or having bonfires in the backyard.
Have something healthy that you REALLY enjoy for each meal — perhaps a tasty smoothie for breakfast, delicious leftovers for lunch, and plan a fun dinner — fun to both make and eat!
Once you start experimenting in the kitchen, it's hard to stop and the possibilities are endless. Before you go to bed, rehash your day and find gratitude for everything that happened to you that day. The most important part of all of this is to practice mindfulness throughout your day. Even on your way to work, which may seem like the most mundane thing ever, take in the weather, the sounds, the sights.
At work, notice the people around you, and make the best of whatever your job might be. You're there, so may as well make the best of it and take pride in your accomplishments. Our world is always changing, every second of every hour, so make sure you witness as much of it as you can.
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