Friday, December 1, 2017

Physicians Friday: What is Diverticulitis?

What is Diverticulitis?

Have you ever been in a doctors office and they start throwing around big words that you have never heard of but sound really scary so you get alarmed? Most people have, but at Island Urgent Care we really try to explain every diagnosis in the easiest way possible. We know that not everyone has gone to medical school and we want to relay our knowledge on to you! Diverticulitis seems like a scary diagnosis but we explain exactly what it is and how we treat it. 

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis starts after diverticula form.  Diverticula are out-pouches of the large intestine.  Your gastroenterologist would see these when performing a colonoscopy or radiologist may see them on an abdominal CT scan or MRI but otherwise you likely won’t know you have them until they get inflamed or infected.  Current theories believe that diverticula form due to dietary habits and a low fiber diet because this may cause the intestines to strain harder to move the stool.  These diverticula or pouches are prone to getting infected and when they do it is called diverticulitis.

What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?

The most common symptom is abdominal pain and the most common location of the pain is in the left lower side however early in the infection the pain can felt vaguely through the whole abdomen.  Other common symptoms include changes in stool either diarrhea or constipation, indigestion, nausea and vomiting and fever.

How do we determine if you have diverticulitis?

When someone has abdominal pain, we are often considering diverticulitis as one of the many possible causes of your symptoms and based on your personal medical history and examination we may recommend performing some laboratory testing and possibly x-ray or CT scan of the abdomen.  If you have a history of diverticulitis in the past and your symptoms fit with diverticulitis, a CT is not always necessary, and we will usually start treatment right away for a repeat flare of diverticulitis.

How is diverticulitis treated?

Our physicians at Island Urgent Care commonly treat diverticulitis by prescribing 2 antibiotics by mouth.  Also, often we will recommend a liquid or low residue diet for a few days during your recovery from the infection.  Occasionally if the symptoms are severe, hospitalization will be required and rarely surgery is needed to control the infection. 

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