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Diverticular Disease Specialists in Concord, NC

What is Diverticular Disease?

Diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system. They are found most often in the colon. Diverticula are common, especially after age 40, and usually do not cause problems. An estimated 65 percent of the population is affected by the age 80. Diverticulitis occurs when one or more of the diverticula become inflamed or infected.

Common Symptoms of Diverticular Disease

The signs and symptoms of diverticulitis include:

Common Causes of Diverticular Disease

Diverticula develop when areas of your colon give way under pressure. This causes pouches to protrude through the colon wall. Diverticulitis occurs when the diverticula tears, resulting in inflammation or infection. Factors that may increase risk include:

  • Aging
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

How To Get Diagnosed

Because abdominal pain can indicate several problems, your Northeast Digestive Health Center provider will often diagnose diverticulitis by first ruling out other causes of abdominal pain. This will likely begin with a physical exam. Additional tests may include:

  • Blood and urine tests to check for signs of infection
  • Stool tests and liver function tests to rule out more serious conditions
  • CT scan, which can indicate infected pouches and confirm a diagnosis

Are There Any Risk Factors For Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease refers to the presence of small pouches (diverticula) that can form in the walls of the colon, a condition known as diverticulosis. In some cases, these pouches can become inflamed or infected, leading to a more serious condition called diverticulitis. While the exact cause of diverticular disease is not fully understood, certain risk factors are associated with its development:

  • Age: The risk of diverticular disease increases with age, and it is more commonly seen in people over the age of 40.
  • Dietary Factors: A diet low in fiber may contribute to the development of diverticular disease. Diets high in refined foods and low in fiber can result in harder stools, leading to increased pressure in the colon during bowel movements, potentially contributing to the formation of diverticula.
  • Low Physical Activity: Lack of regular physical activity may be a risk factor. Exercise helps promote regular bowel movements and overall colon health.
  • Genetics: There appears to be a genetic component to diverticular disease. Individuals with a family history of the condition may have a higher risk.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese is associated with an increased risk of diverticular disease. The exact mechanisms linking obesity to diverticulosis are not fully understood.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking has been identified as a potential risk factor for diverticular disease, although the relationship is complex and not completely understood.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Long-term use of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, has been suggested as a potential risk factor for diverticular complications.
  • Connective Tissue Disorders: Certain connective tissue disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, have been associated with an increased risk of diverticular disease.

It's important to note that many people with diverticula in their colon (diverticulosis) do not experience symptoms, and the condition is often discovered incidentally during tests for other issues. However, when diverticulitis occurs, it can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, and changes in bowel habits, requiring medical attention.

Possible Complications of Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease can lead to various complications, particularly when inflammation or infection occurs in the pouches (diverticula) in the colon. The most common complication is diverticulitis, but other complications may also arise. Here are some possible complications associated with diverticular disease:

  • Diverticulitis: This is the inflammation or infection of one or more diverticulas. Symptoms may include abdominal pain (often on the left side), fever, changes in bowel habits, and nausea. In severe cases, diverticulitis can lead to abscess formation, perforation of the colon, or the development of fistulas (abnormal connections between the colon and other organs).
  • Abscess Formation: In cases of severe diverticulitis, pus may accumulate in the inflamed area, forming an abscess. Abscesses can cause additional symptoms such as persistent pain, fever, and chills.
  • Perforation: In some cases, diverticulitis can lead to a perforation (tear) in the wall of the colon. This can result in the leakage of bowel contents into the abdominal cavity, leading to peritonitis, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.
  • Fistulas: Inflammation from diverticulitis can lead to the formation of abnormal connections (fistulas) between the colon and other nearby structures, such as the bladder or small intestine.
  • Bowel Obstruction: Inflammation or scarring from recurrent episodes of diverticulitis may narrow the colon, leading to bowel obstruction.
  • Hemorrhage: While less common, diverticular disease can lead to bleeding. This may result in significant blood loss, leading to anemia or, in rare cases, requiring emergency medical attention.
  • Chronic Symptoms: Some individuals may experience chronic symptoms, such as recurrent abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, even in the absence of acute diverticulitis.

What is The Treatment For Diverticular Disease

Treatment for diverticulitis depends on the symptoms. If mild, you may be treated at home, in which case your doctor is likely to recommend:

  • Antibiotics, to treat infection
  • A liquid diet while your bowel heals
  • An over-the-counter pain reliever

If you have a severe attack or other health problems, you'll likely need to be hospitalized for treatment – typically involving intravenous antibiotics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main types of diverticular disease?

Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are the two main types of diverticular disease. Diverticulosis is the presence of one or more diverticuli. These tiny bulges in the colon do not usually cause symptoms or need treatment, but they can lead to diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is the inflammation and infection of one or more diverticulas. This type of diverticular disease can cause pain, nausea, fever, and other symptoms. This type of diverticular disease is more serious and potentially dangerous.

How common is diverticular disease?

Diverticular disease is common in Western populations, particularly in older adults. About 10 percent of people over the age of 40 have diverticulosis, for example, while about half of all people over the age of 60 have this type of diverticular disease.

Who is most likely to develop diverticular disease?

Everyone is more likely to develop diverticular disease, such as diverticulosis and diverticulitis, as they age.

Does what I eat and drink affect my chances of developing diverticular disease?

Research suggests that eating a diet high in red meat and low in fiber may increase your chances of developing diverticulitis. Dietary fiber softens your stool, helps prevent constipation, and helps decrease the pressure inside your colon that can lead to diverticular flare-ups. Increasing your intake of fiber and eating less red meat may lower your risk for diverticular disease.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating 14 grams of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume. If you normally eat a 2,000-calorie diet, for example, you should consume 28 grams of dietary fiber every day.

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Contact Info

Northeast Digestive Health Center
1070 Vinehaven Drive NE
Concord, North Carolina 28025
Phone: (704)783-1840
Fax: (704)783-1850
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