What is a Diverticular Disease?
Diverticular disease is a very common disease that mainly occurs because of the weakness of muscles. In this disease, small sacs or pockets are developed in the wall of the large intestine. These pockets are also called diverticula. This happens when the internal layer of the bowel pushes outward through the weakened muscles. This scars can form anywhere in the large intestine. However in most of the cases it is formed in the sigmoid colon that means in the part of the large intestine which is very close to the rectum.
Symptoms of Diverticular Disease
Generally, it is seen that a person with Diverticular disease does not get any kind of symptoms. It is usually detected when a person goes for scanning for some other reasons. However, in some rare cases the patient may feel the following symptoms:(1)
- Abdominal pain especially on the left side
- Constipation, diarrhea or both
- Rectal bleeding
- General tiredness or unwell
- Blood or mucus in stool
Causes of Diverticular Disease
The main cause of Diverticular disease is the high pressure within the large intestine. Due to the high pressure the weak areas of the large intestine bulge out and forms scars. This main reason for forming this situation is the consumption of fiber in the diet. Regular consumption of red meat is also a prime reason for this situation. The pockets or scars that are formed due to Diverticular disease vary in size. Sometimes it may happen that a small amount of stool gets trapped in the pocket. Over time these scars become inflamed and this cause diverticulitis.
Diagnosis of Diverticular Disease
It is mostly seen that the doctor first takes the medical history of the patient and listen to their symptoms. Then the doctors may suggest you do a blood test to confirm that you do not have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Celiac disease or bowel cancer which also has a similar type of symptoms. In some cases doctors may advise you to do the following tests:
- Colonoscopy: It is a kind of test in which a thin tube with a camera at the end of the tube is inserted to the back passage of the patient and guided up to the bowel. Then the doctor looks for the signs of Diverticular disease in the computer screen. Though the colonoscopy is not too much painful yet in some cases doctors prescribe painkiller medication and sedative so that the patient gets a little relaxed and his discomfort is reduced to a certain extent.(1)
- CT Scan: Computerized Tomography (CT) scan is a type of test by which doctors can see the inside the large intestine and detect if any signs of Diverticular disease is present. In this process, a narrow X-ray beam is passed into the body of the patient and it provides images of the various parts of the large intestine from different angles.(1)
Treatment and Prevention of Diverticular disease
If you have Diverticular disease with no symptoms then you do not need any kind of treatment – just have to take some preventive measures. For example, you have to take a diet that is rich in fiber. It is recommended to eat 30 grams of fiber per day. You can take fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, cereals, and starchy food as these have good sources of fiber. Apart from that, you have to limit the consumption of red meat to prevent further formation of diverticula. In some cases, doctors may prescribe antibiotics as well. If you have pain then the doctor can prescribe Paracetamol for getting relief from the pain. However it is advisable not to take aspirin or ibuprofen as it can cause stomach upset.
In severe cases, it may become necessary to go for surgery. In the case of surgery, the surgeon removes the affected part of the large intestine. This surgery is called as colectomy and it is mainly performed in some rare condition for example fistulas, peritonitis blockage of the intestine.
Diverticular disease is mainly linked with the age, diet, lifestyle as well as genetic factors. It is seen that when a person gets older the wall of the large intestine becomes weaker. Under such circumstances when the hard stool passes through the large intestine it has a huge chance to cause diverticula. Generally, people suffer from this problem at the age of 80. Low intake of fiber is also another cause of this problem. Fiber intake helps to make the stool softer and thus putting less pressure on the wall of the large intestine. Apart from that smoking, overweight, constipation, regular use of pain killer, for example, ibuprofen or aspirin also causes diverticular disease.