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Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis (cont.)

Diverticulitis vs. Diverticulosis

Diverticulitis is inflammation of diverticula. Diverticulitis occurs when one or more of these pouches becomes inflamed or infected. Some people with diverticulosis become aware of the condition only when acute diverticulitis occurs.

Diverticulosis is a very common condition in the United States.

  • Diverticulosis is mainly a condition of older people.
  • A small percentage of Americans over the age of 40 have diverticulosis. As we age, the condition becomes more prevalent. Over half of people older than 60 years of age develop the condition, and about two-thirds of individuals older than 80 years of age are believed to have diverticulosis.
  • Only a few people with diverticulosis will develop diverticulitis.

Diverticulosis is more common in developed or industrialized countries.

  • In places such as the United States, England, and Australia, where the typical diet is low in fiber and high in highly processed carbohydrates, diverticulosis is common. The current theory is that a low-fiber diet may cause increased incidence of diverticular disease.
  • Diverticulosis first appeared in the United States in the early 1900s. This was about the dame time when processed foods were first introduced into the U.S. diet.
  • Diverticulosis is much less common in countries of Asia and Africa, where the typical diet is high in fiber.

Most people recover from diverticulitis without complications if they receive appropriate treatment. Diverticulitis can lead to some very serious conditions if it is not detected and treated promptly. To a great extent, diverticulosis and diverticulitis can be prevented by changes in lifestyle and habits.

Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis Causes

Diverticulosis is thought to be caused by increased pressure on the intestinal wall from inside the intestine.

  • As the body ages, the outer layer of the intestinal wall thickens. This causes the open space inside the intestine to narrow. Stool (feces) moves more slowly through the colon, increasing the pressure.
  • Hard stools, such as those produced by a diet low in fiber or slower stool "transit time" through the colon can further increase the pressure.
  • Frequent, repeated straining during bowel movements also increases the pressure and contributes to the formation of diverticula.

Diverticulosis in developed countries is blamed largely on a diet low in fiber.

  • Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).
  • There are two types of fiber; soluble (dissolves in water) and insoluble.
    • Soluble fiber forms a soft gel-like substance in the digestive tract.
    • Insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract nearly unchanged.
  • Both are necessary to keep stool soft and moving easily through the digestive tract.
  • This is how fiber prevents constipation.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/8/2015

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis):

Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis) - Symptoms

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Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis) - Surgery Recovery

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Diverticulitis - Diet

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Diverticulitis »

Diverticula are small mucosal herniations protruding through the intestinal layers and the smooth muscle along the natural openings created by the vasa recta or nutrient vessels in the wall of the colon.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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