Diverticulosis means that small pouches have formed in the wall of your large intestine (colon). Most often, this problem causes no symptoms and is common as people age. But the pouches in the colon are at risk of becoming infected. When this happens, the condition is called diverticulitis. Although most people with diverticulosis never develop diverticulitis, it is still not uncommon. Rectal bleeding can also occur and in less common situations, a type of colon inflammation called colitis.
While most people do not have symptoms, some people with diverticulosis may have:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Change in bowel habits
The exact cause of diverticulosis (and diverticulitis) has not been proved, but a few things are associated with the condition:
- Low-fiber diet
- Lack of exercise
Your healthcare provider will talk with you about how to manage your condition. Diet changes may be all that are needed to help control diverticulosis and prevent progression to diverticulitis. If you develop diverticulitis, you will likely need other treatments.
You may be told to take fiber supplements daily. Fiber adds bulk to the stool so that it passes through the colon more easily. Stool softeners may be recommended. You may also be given medications for pain relief. Be sure to take all medications as directed.
In the past, people were told to avoid corn, nuts, and seeds. This is no longer necessary.
Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:
- Eat unprocessed foods that are high in fiber. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are good choices.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day unless your healthcare provider has you limit how much fluid you should have.
- Watch for changes in your bowel movements. Tell your provider if you notice any changes.
- Begin an exercise program. Ask your provider how to get started. Generally, walking is the best.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep.
Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Regular visits may be needed to check on your health. Sometimes special procedures such as colonoscopy, are needed after an episode of diverticulitis or blooding. Be sure to keep all your appointments.
If a stool sample was taken, or cultures were done, you should be told if they are positive, or if your treatment needs to be changed. You can call as directed for the results.
If X-rays were done, a radiologist will look at them. You will be told if there is a change in your treatment.
If antibiotics were prescribed, be sure to finish them all.
When to seek medical advice
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
- Fever of 100.4?F (38?C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider
- Severe cramps in the lower left side of the abdomen or pain that is getting worse
- Tenderness in the lower left side of the abdomen or worsening pain throughout the abdomen
- Diarrhea or constipation that doesn't get better within 24 hours
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bleeding from the rectum
Call emergency services if any of the following occur:
- Trouble breathing
- Very drowsy or trouble awakening
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
- Rapid heart rate
- Chest pain