As people age, it’s more common for them to develop a condition of the colon, or large intestines, known as diverticulosis. Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches stick out from the colon. This may be the result of a low-fiber diet or straining when going to the bathroom. It’s more common for adults over the age of 60 to develop diverticulosis; however, it’s possible for this condition to develop in people of all ages.
The problem is that diverticulosis doesn’t often cause symptoms, making it difficult for someone to tell whether or not they have it. Some people may experience mild abdominal tenderness or cramping, bloating and constipation. Diverticulosis is often confused with diverticulitis, but they are different conditions. Diverticulitis occurs when these pouches become infected or inflamed. Unlike diverticulosis, this problem will often result in severe stomach pain.
If you are experiencing bowel changes, bloating or abdominal pain and don’t know what’s going on our colon and rectal surgeons can perform a diagnostic test to determine whether or not you might have diverticulosis. After all, there are other conditions such as IBS and ulcers that can also cause the same symptoms, so it’s important to rule out these other conditions first so that we can provide you with an effective treatment plan.
Of course, sometimes you might not even know that you have diverticulosis until it shows up during another diagnostic test such as an x-ray or colonoscopy. We will also go through your medical history and ask questions about your current diet and lifestyle. Sometimes a rectal exam and additional testing (e.g. CT scans, blood sample) is needed to make a definitive diagnosis. Our colon and rectal surgery are meticulous when it comes to diagnosing conditions that affect the digestive tract.
If the condition is mild, simple lifestyle modifications may be all that’s needed to get the problem under control. Common lifestyle modifications include increasing your fiber intake and consuming more probiotics, either by taking a daily supplement or by eating more probiotic-rich foods (e.g. yogurt).
There are also certain medications that can reduce bloating and abdominal pain associated with diverticular disease. If diverticulosis turns into diverticulitis antibiotics are typically prescribed; however, if the condition doesn’t improve with oral antibiotics you may require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. During this time you won’t eat or drink anything, which will allow the colon time to rest and heal.
Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove part of the colon, which is the case for uncontrollable bleeding (a rare complication), or to treat abscesses, perforations, fistulas, obstructions and peritonitis (an infection in the abdominal lining).
If you are experiencing symptoms of diverticulosis it’s important that you turn to a doctor for care. Call Associates in Colon and Rectal Surgery in Salt Lake City, UT, at (801) 263-1621.