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Understanding Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis

Image of normal diverticula
Pouches or diverticula usually occur in the lower part of the colon called the sigmoid.

 

Image of infected diverticula
Diverticulitis occurs when the pouches become infected or inflamed.

 

The colon (large intestine) is the last part of the digestive tract. It absorbs water from stool and changes it from a liquid to a solid. In certain cases, small pouches called diverticula can form in the colon wall. This condition is called diverticulosis. The pouches can become infected. If this happens, it becomes a more serious problem called diverticulitis. These problems can be painful. But they can be managed.

Managing Your Condition

Diet changes or taking medications are often tried first. These may be enough to bring relief. If the case is bad, surgery may be done. You and your doctor can discuss the plan that is best for you.

If You Have Diverticulosis

  • Diet changes are often enough to control symptoms. The main changes are adding fiber (roughage) and drinking more water. Fiber absorbs water as it travels through your colon. This helps your stool stay soft and move smoothly. Water helps this process.

  • If needed, you may be told to take over-the-counter stool softeners.

  • To help relieve pain, antispasmodic medications may be prescribed.

  • Watch for changes in your bowel movements. Tell the doctor if you notice any changes.

  • Begin an exercise program. Ask your doctor how to get started.

  • Get plenty of rest and sleep. 

If You Have Diverticulitis

Treatment depends on how bad your symptoms are.

  • For mild symptoms. You may be put on a liquid diet for a short time. Antibiotics are usually prescribed. If these 2 steps relieve your symptoms, you may then be prescribed a high-fiber diet. If you still have symptoms, your doctor will discuss further treatment options with you.

  • For severe symptoms. You may need to be admitted to the hospital. There, you can be given IV antibiotics and fluids. Once symptoms are under control, the above treatments may be tried. If these don’t control your condition, your doctor may discuss the option of having surgery with you.

Keys to Colon Health

Help keep your colon healthy with a diet that includes plenty of high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink plenty of liquids like water and juice. 

© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.