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Diverticular Disease

What is Diverticulosis?
Diverticulosis (also known as diverticular disease) is common. It is a condition where there are small pocket/outpouchings on the large bowel (colon). Its frequency increases with age and may run in families. Diverticulosis affects approximately one third of people over 50 years and is uncommon in people under 40 years of age.

How does Diverticulosis occur?
Diverticulosis is more common in people who have a low fibre diet. A low fibre diet may be associated with constipation and straining resulting in increased pressures in the bowel. Over many years, these high pressures can cause “outpouchings” to form at weak spots in the bowel wall.

How is Diverticulosis diagnosed?
Diverticulosis is usually diagnosed during a colonoscopy, during which the doctor examines the lining of the large bowel. It may also be seen on other tests such as a CT scan.

What are the symptoms of Diverticulosis?
Diverticulosis does not usually cause any symptoms. However, cramping & bloating may occur due to constipation. Painless rectal bleeding may occur and whilst this usually settles spontaneously, any rectal bleeding warrants further examination.

Are there any complications from Diverticulosis?
The complications of diverticulosis include infection and bleeding. “Diverticulitis” is condition where the outpouchings become infected due to retained faeces. This may cause pain, fever, nausea and loss of appetite. Avoiding nuts, seeds and grains will not prevent an episode of diverticulitis (contrary to popular belief). A CT scan is usually required to diagnose diverticulitis, and antibiotics are usually required. If diverticulitis is left untreated, an abscess (collection of pus) can form outside the bowel requiring surgical treatment. Repeat attacks of diverticulitis or severe diverticular disease may cause a stricture/narrowing in the large bowel. Significant bleeding can also occur as a result of diverticulosis. The bleeding is usually painless and stops without treatment, although occasionally surgery may be necessary.

Is there any treatment for Diverticulosis?
The diverticuli do not disappear once they have formed. Fortunately, most people do not experience any symptoms and treatment may not be necessary. If the diverticulosis is severe or is causing cramping,bloating or constipation, a high fibre diet may be recommended (unless acute diverticulitis).

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