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Coping With Diverticulitis}

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Submitted by: Lisa Sousa

Diverticulosis is a common condition, seen in many people. With this condition, small pouches will bulge out in the large intestine. These bulges form on weak spots in the colon, much the same way that a bicycle inner tube will bulge. Usually, these pouches form in the large intestine, although they can be seen anywhere in the digestive tract. Often diverticulosis doesn’t cause any symptoms beyond a mild abdominal pain. If food lodges in one of these pouches, and gets infected it causes a more serious condition called diverticulitis.

The symptoms of diverticulitis are more severe than diverticulosis, and the symptoms themselves can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of diverticulitis include:

* Pain in the lower left part of the abdomen. Depending on the severity, this pain can be from mild to severe. The pain is usually experienced as a dull ache, sometimes accompanied by cramping.

* Fever and chills can occur, as the body’s natural reaction to the infection.

* In some cases, nausea and vomiting can occur.

* Blood in the stool may occur.

Sometimes the infection is just a minor inflammation, causing mild symptoms, or it may be a major infection with more severe symptoms occuring. If not treated, serious complications can occur. These include:

* The infected pouch may become perforated, causing intestinal contents to leak out into the abdominal cavity.

* Abcesses may occur due to the infected contents of the pouch.

* Peritonitis can occur if the infection spreads to the peritoneal cavity

* Fistulas may occur, between the colon and surrounding organs, or the colon and the skin.

* Intestinal obstruction can occur due to scarring of recurring diverticulitis attacks.

The treatment for diverticulitis also varies according to the severity of the attack.

With a mild attack, home care will usually suffice. A few days of rest will give the body a chance to fight off the infection. A liquid diet will help allow the colon to heal. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains should be avoided for a few days.

If more severe symptoms are felt, such as nausea and vomiting, or high fever, then a stay in the hospital may be in order. IV antibiotics may be administered to control the infection.

In some severe cases, surgery may be necessary. The diseased section of the colon will be removed, and the colon resectioned.

The best treatment for diverticulitis, is to prevent it in the first place. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains should be a regular part of the diet, to give you much needed fiber. A high fiber diet can help to prevent diverticulitis. You should be getting 25 grams or more of fiber per day. Seeds, nuts, and other such foods can get stuck in one of the pouches, and infected, so they should be minimized in the diet. Fatty foods should also be minimized or avoided. Plenty of water, along with a good exercise program will help to keep things moving along as they should. If you experience any symptoms of diverticulitis, such as abdominal pain, blood in the stool, soft and tarry stools, then see your doctor, so you can get treatment started quickly.

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