Diverticulitis is a form of diverticular disease that happens when diverticula, small pouches in the wall of the large intestine (colon), push through weak spots in the colon’s outer muscle layers. Inflammation of these diverticula are called diverticulitis.
In the past, doctors often recommended people who had diverticulitis avoid foods such as nuts, popcorn, and seeds because it was thought these particles could enter or block the diverticula.
More recent research indicates these foods are not harmful and since they are high in fiber, they may help some patients. Each patient is different and some people may find certain foods aggravate or trigger diverticulitis symptoms.
Some foods such as those low in fiber or high in sugar that may increase the risk of developing diverticulitis or trigger diverticulitis symptoms include:
- Red meats
- Processed meats
- Fried foods
- Full fat dairy products
A high-fiber diet including foods such as foods fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dried beans and lentils is usually recommended for patients with diverticulitis.
What Are Symptoms of Diverticulitis?
Symptoms of diverticulitis include:
What Causes Diverticulitis?
In Western countries, the diverticulitis is believed to be caused by the classic Western high-fat and low-fiber diet.
How Is Diverticulitis Diagnosed?
Diverticulitis is diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination.
Laboratory tests that may be indicated include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Urine culture
- Stool test for blood
- A pregnancy test for females of childbearing age with abdominal pain
- Computed tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen
- Contrast enema, using water-soluble medium
- X-rays of the abdomen
What Is the Treatment for Diverticulitis?
Treatment for diverticulitis depends on the severity, any complications, and other underlying medical conditions.
An uncomplicated, mild diverticulitis attack may go away without treatment, but it is important to see a doctor to assess the severity and determine if treatment is needed.
Treatment for mild diverticulitis includes:
- Clear liquid diet for 2-3 days; progress 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 more severe cases, hospitalization may be needed. If hospitalized, treatment 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
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