What is diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is a digestion problem. It happens when pouches (diverticula) form in the wall of the colon and then become inflamed or infected. This can cause tenderness, cramps, or pain in the belly.
Not everyone who has these pouches gets diverticulitis. Mild attacks of diverticulitis may heal on their own. When the infection and symptoms are severe, it may need treatment in a hospital.
What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?
Belly pain, often in the lower left side, is the most common symptom of diverticulitis. The pain is sometimes worse when you move. Other symptoms include fever, chills, bloating, and gas. You may also have diarrhea or constipation. Symptoms can last from a few hours to several days, or longer if not treated.
How is diverticulitis treated?
Treatment for diverticulitis includes antibiotics. It often includes a change in your diet. You may need only liquids at first. Your doctor may suggest pain medicines for pain or belly cramps. In some cases, surgery may be needed.
If you and your doctor decide that surgery is needed, the procedure performed is typically a bowel resection. This surgery involves removing the diseased part of the large intestine (partial colectomy). The remaining parts are reconnected.
Sometimes more than one surgery is needed. When that's the case, the person most often has a colostomy during the time between surgeries. A colostomy is a procedure in which the upper part of the intestine is sewn to an opening made in the skin of the belly. Stool passes out of the body at this opening and into a disposable bag. In most cases, the colostomy is removed later, and the intestine is reconnected.
You may need surgery if you have:
- An abnormal opening (fistula) that has formed between the colon and a nearby organ, most often the bladder, uterus, or vagina.
- A pocket of infection called an abscess.
- An infection that has spread beyond the colon.
- A narrow or blocked colon.
- Severe or frequent bleeding.