Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis


Do you know that we can have small pockets or bags on the inside of our intestines (diverticulosis) that can become inflamed (diverticulitis)?

Usually, these pockets or diverticula appear on the descending and s-shaped parts at the end of the colon. Diverticula are common, especially in the elderly as the number of cases normally increases with increasing age. Occasionally, diverticulosis can cause symptoms similar to those of IBS, such as pain, numbness, diarrhea, or constipation.

However, inflammation can occur in one or more of these diverticula which then give rise to a condition called diverticulitis or sigmoiditis. Inflammation in diverticulitis can be severe and cause bleeding and even holes through the intestinal wall.

Symptoms of diverticulitis

Common symptoms of diverticulitis are malaise, fever, nausea and abdominal pain, often in the lower (often left) part of the abdomen. It hurts when the doctor examines and presses on the stomach. The bowel pattern changes through diarrhea/constipation and you may feel bloated. You may also have problems with urinating and having to urinate more often.

If the inflammation has gone so far that it has created a hole through the intestinal wall, you can become acutely ill and feel very bad. You can lose your appetite, feel sick, vomit. Sometimes it has gone so far that the diverticulitis will cause blood poisoning or peritonitis.

Causes of diverticulitis

The pockets themselves are considered to arise as a result of increased pressure in the intestine, which in turn causes a part of the intestinal wall to bulge out. Repeated constipation increases the pressure in the intestine and can contribute to the formation of pockets. Both a low-fiber diet, drug intake, smoking and high alcohol consumption have been identified as possible risk factors for developing diverticula.

The inflammation is thought to occur when parts of the stool become stagnant in the diverticulum and the inflammation then spreads to nearby areas of the intestinal wall. There are also explanatory models that compare diverticulitis with a kind of localized variant of inflammatory bowel disease. <h2>Diagnosis of diverticulitis</h2>
The doctor listens carefully to the symptoms and examines, among other things, by pressing on the stomach and in the rectum. Blood and urine samples are taken and various forms of X-rays (such as computed tomography) and ultrasound examinations of the abdomen are often used. These examinations are often followed with several new examination methods to rule out that there is no other underlying disease, such as colon cancer.

Treatment of diverticulitis

It has not been determined which treatment is most effective in diverticulitis. The doctor assesses the appropriate treatment on a case-by-case basis and the severity of the problems.

Mild ailments of diverticulitis are often treated through an intestinal rest / liquid diet. For milder symptoms of diverticulitis, recovery is often within a few days and a diet richer in fiber, possibly laxative drugs and that you move more than before is often recommended.

If the symptoms are more pronounced, you may need to let the bowel rest completely by staying in the hospital and getting a drip. Sometimes antibiotics are used, mainly for severe diverticulitis. Painkillers or laxatives can also be used. In a more severe form of diverticulitis where the inflammation has caused greater damage to the intestinal wall, surgery is required.

During the operation, the surgeon removes the parts where the intestinal pockets sit and sew the intestine together if it looks good otherwise. Sometimes a so-called temporary stoma is needed with an ostomy bag that leads out the stool. When the infection has healed, you can sometimes have surgery again and regain normal bowel function without a stoma.

There is also a newer treatment method where the abdominal cavity is rinsed clean without removing the parts of the intestine in which the surgical method is decided in each individual case.

Did you know that..

  • The word diverticulum comes from the Latin diverticulum, from diverter, which means to turn away.
  • The descending and s-shaped parts at the end of the colon are called the colon descending and sigmoid.
  • Diverticulitis can also be called sigmoiditis because the pocket formations are most common in the sigmoid.

How to know when to call the doctor

Always contact the healthcare counseling service or your healthcare center if you have any thoughts about symptoms or illnesses.

Some signs from the gastrointestinal tract that indicate that you should contact healthcare immediately for your gastrointestinal problems are if you…

  • Lose weight rapidly and/or has no appetite
  • Sudden soreness in the upper abdomen
  • Severe abdominal pain that does not subside
  • Vomiting and stomach contents look like coffee grounds or contain blood
  • Has black/bloody stools
  • Stomach ache and at the same time, fever or nausea
  • Disrupted bowel habits
  • Older than 50 years old and has new stomach problems that have not been experienced before

For all thoughts and concerns about gastrointestinal problems and other diseases, you can always call the health care counseling service (1177 – www.1177.se) for advice.

The information on this site or other internet-based services can never replace a visit to a doctor or other healthcare professional. Contact your healthcare counselor or your healthcare center for customized advice, diagnosis, and treatment.