Some people get pouches along the wall of the colon as they get older. The pouches, called diverticuli, usually cause no symptoms. If the pouches become blocked, you can get an infection. This infection is called diverticulitis. It causes pain in your lower abdomen and fever. If not treated, it can become a serious condition, causing an abscess to form inside the pouch. The abscess may block the intestinal tract even or rupture, spreading infection throughout the abdomen.
When treatment is started early, oral antibiotics alone may be enough to cure diverticulitis. This method is tried first. But, if you don't improve or if your condition gets worse while you are trying oral antibiotics, you may need to be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics. Severe cases may require surgery.
The following guidelines will help you care for yourself at home:
- During the acute illness, rest and follow a low-fiber diet. Include foods like:
- Flake cereal, mashed potatoes, pancakes, waffles, pasta, white bread, rice, applesauce, bananas, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, tofu, and cooked vegetables
- Take antibiotics exactly as the doctor says. Don't miss any doses or stop taking the medication, even if you feel better.
- Monitor your temperature and report any rising temperatures to your doctor.
Preventing future attacks
Once you have had an episode of diverticulitis, you are at risk for having it again. After you have recovered from this episode, you may be able to reduce your risk by eating a high-fiber diet (20-35 gm/day of fiber). This cleans out the colon pouches that already exist and prevents new ones from forming. Foods high in fiber include fresh fruits and edible peelings, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, whole grain cereals and breads, dried beans and peas, and bran.
Other steps that can help prevent future attacks include:
- Take your medications, such as antibiotics, as the doctor says.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day, unless directed otherwise.
- Use a heating pad or hot water bottle to reduce abdominal cramping or pain.
- Begin an exercise program. Ask your doctor how to get started. You can benefit from simple activities such as walking or gardening.
- Treat diarrhea with a bland diet. Start with liquids only; then slowly add fiber over time.
- Watch for changes in your bowel movements (constipation to diarrhea).
- Get plenty of rest and sleep.
Follow up with your doctor as advised or sooner if you are not getting better in the next 2 days.
When to seek medical care
Get prompt medical attention if any of the following occur:
- Fever of 100.4?F (38?C) or higher, or as directed by your health care provider
- Repeated vomiting or swelling of the abdomen
- Weakness, dizziness, light-headedness
- Pain in your abdomen that gets worse, severe, or spreads to your back
- Pain that moves to the right lower abdomen
- Rectal bleeding (stools that are red, black or maroon color)
- Unexpected vaginal bleeding