What is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is a form of diverticular disease, which occurs when small pouches form in the large intestinal (colonic) wall called diverticula. These diverticula push through weak spots in the colon’s outer muscle layers. Inflammation of the diverticula is called diverticulitis. Diverticulosis is the presence of diverticula without inflammation.
What Causes Diverticulitis?
A high-fat and low-fiber diet is considered a contributing factor for developing diverticulitis in Western countries.
Other potential causes of diverticulitis include:
- Constipation and straining to have a bowel movement
- Lack of exercise
- Use of certain medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, and steroids
Certain foods that are low in fiber or high in sugar may aggravate or trigger diverticulitis in some people, such as:
- Processed meats
- Red meats
- Fried foods
- Full fat dairy products
Is Diverticulitis Contagious?
Diverticulitis is not contagious. It is not transmitted from person-to-person, through respiratory droplets or bodily fluids, or by touching contaminated surfaces.
Diverticulosis, which can lead to diverticulitis, occurs commonly when people age.
How is Diverticulitis Diagnosed?
Diverticulitis is diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination.
Laboratory tests used to help diagnose diverticulitis include:
- White blood cell count
- Hemoglobin level
- Electrolyte assays
- Blood cultures
- Renal function tests
- Liver enzyme and lipase levels
- Urine culture
- Stool test for blood
- A pregnancy test for females of childbearing age
Imaging tests used to help diagnose diverticulitis include:
What is the Treatment for Diverticulitis?
Treatment for diverticulitis depends on the severity, any complications that exist, and a patient’s other medical conditions.
Treatment for mild diverticulitis includes:
- Clear liquid diet for 2-3 days; progressing to a soft diet as tolerated
- 7-10 days of oral broad-spectrum antibiotics if needed, such as:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and antispasmodics for pain
In severe cases hospitalization may be needed. If hospitalized, treatment for severe diverticulitis may include:
- Clear liquid diet; progress to a soft diet as tolerated
- Intravenous (IV) or oral antibiotics
- Abscesses less than 3 cm: Typically resolved with antibiotics
- Abscesses greater than 4 cm: Drain percutaneously
- Pain management
- Elective surgical resection
How do you Prevent Diverticulitis?
The primary way to prevent diverticulitis is with proper diet and exercise. Diverticular disease can be due to a low fiber diet, so consumption of a high fiber diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and other high fiber foods is the mainstay of prevention.
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