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Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care for Diverticulitis

A person should see a health-care professional if he or she has any of the following symptoms, which may indicate a serious condition:

  • persistent abdominal pain, often in the lower-left area of the abdomen;
  • persistent unexplained fevers;
  • persistent diarrhea;
  • persistent vomiting; or
  • persistent or recurring urinary tract infection.

Any time a person has bleeding from the rectum, he or she should see a health-care professional as soon as possible.

  • Seek medical care even if the bleeding stops on its own.
  • Bleeding may be a sign of diverticulitis or other serious diseases.
  • If there is a lot of blood or a steady flow of blood, go to a hospital emergency department immediately.

The following symptoms suggest a complication and warrant an immediate visit to an emergency department:

  • worsening abdominal pain;
  • persistent fever with abdominal pain;
  • vomiting so severe that food or liquids cannot be tolerated;
  • swelling or distention of the abdomen;
  • persistent constipation for an extended period of time; or
  • severe pain or other symptoms that you had before when you had diverticulitis.

A person should not attempt to drive themselves to receive medical help, they should have someone else drive them, or call 911 for emergency medical transport.

How Is Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis Diagnosed?

The health-care professional will ask the patient questions about his or her symptoms, lifestyle and habits, and medical and surgical history.

  • The physical exam will probably include a "digital rectal examination" in which a health-care professional inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to try to find a cause for bleeding or pain.
  • Blood tests may be performed to access signs of blood loss or infection, evaluate the function of the kidneys and liver, or to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing similar symptoms.
  • X-rays of organs in the abdomen may be ordered to assist in identifying the cause of the patient's symptoms.
  • CT scans are similar to X-rays except they are able to visualize the organs better and often provide the health-care professional with more useful information. One drawback with CT scans is that they are more expensive, and take longer to perform.
  • A colonoscopy is a procedure performed using a flexible tube with a tiny camera at the end, called an endoscope. The endoscope is inserted into the rectum and further up into the colon. The endoscope provides a direct view of the inner lining of the colon and rectum. The procedure is relatively painless and usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. Patients may be given a sedative medication to relax during the procedure.
  • A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure performed with a flexible sigmoidoscope that has a tiny camera at the end of the sigmoidoscope. The patient lies on his or her left side while the instrument is inserted through the anus and advanced through the rectum and colon. This procedure is relatively painless and takes about five minutes.

Sometimes diverticulosis is discovered during a screening colonoscopy. The American Cancer Society and the United States Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer recommend colonoscopies every 10 years for people older than 50 years to detect early signs of colon cancer. If an individual's family medical history includes a close relative diagnosed with colon cancer, they may need to begin screening at an earlier age. Consult a gastroenterologist for guidelines.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/19/2017

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Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis) - Symptoms

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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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