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Diverticulitis and diverticulosis.

Byline: DR MIRIAM STOPPARD Helping to keep you fit and healthy @MiriamStoppard

What is it?

The presence of small pouches (diverticula) in the wall of the large bowel is known as diverticulosis. Inflammation of these pouches is called diverticulitis. A low-fibre diet and the chronic use of laxatives are risk factors.

The pouches form when parts of the intestinal wall bulge outwards through weakened areas, often close to an artery. Chronic constipation aggravates this when pressure inside the intestine increases as the person strains to defecate.

Diverticulosis is rare before the age of 50 but after that about one in three people is affected.

Diverticulitis is strongly linked to a low-fibre Western diet and may cause constipation.

What are the symptoms?

More than three-quarters of people with diverticulosis don't know that they have it because there are no symptoms.

When present they include:

Bouts of low left abdominal pain relieved by a bowel movement or release of intestinal gas.

Intermittent constipation and diarrhoea.

Possibly bright red painless bleeding from the rectum.

Diverticulosis is often difficult to distinguish from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If diverticulitis develops, symptoms may worsen with fever, nausea and vomiting.

If you notice any change in your bowel habits or you have rectal bleeding, you should consult your doctor immediately.

Are there any complications?

If an inflamed diverticulum bursts, an abscess may form next to the colon or peritonitis may develop.

Fortunately, both are very rare.

How is it diagnosed?

A barium enema will highlight the shape of the intestines and diverticula.

Colonoscopy will exclude colorectal cancer.

What is the treatment?

A high-fibre diet with plenty of fluids is often the only treatment needed for diverticulosis.

Antispasmodic drugs will relax the intestine and relieve abdominal pain.

For severe diverticulitis, antibiotics will treat bacterial infection.
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 14, 2014
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