Diverticulitis – Symptoms And Causes

In the United States, issues linked with organs included in digestion, the digestive tract, and the whole process have caused great concerns as they seem to be on the rise with the changes in the American Standard Diet.

Statistically, over fifteen million people are hospitalized each year due to issues related to the process of digestion ranging from the day to day conditions that are not considered serious such as food poisoning to disorders that are fairly complicated such as the leaky gut syndrome.

Similarly, diverticulitis is a condition that is seen more frequently than ever before mainly because of the same problem. Previously, the issue mostly occurred in the elderly and older adults and children were less likely to get it.

However, today, over 200,000 people are hospitalized each year including children, young adults along with the elderly each year because of diverticulitis and its effects. Common opinion on diverticulitis describes it as extremely disturbing, painful, and irritating.

When it comes to detecting causes of diverticulitis, people in nearly all of the cases have similar habits that are also responsible for the development of the condition.

For example, the foods included in everyday life play an important role especially when it comes to problems associated with the digestive tract. Eating an abundance of harmful foods can put anyone at a higher risk of having diverticulitis and other digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

RELATED: What Are The Signs Of The Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

What Is Diverticulitis?

The term diverticulitis was not as well-known as some other common digestive tract problems previously but the prevalence of cases along with changes in diet has made the condition comparatively popular.

Diverticulitis is a problem related to the digestive tract and occurs when one or more sacs or pouches, also known as diverticula, in the wall of the colon get irritated or inflamed which then later push outwards in the weak parts of the wall.

This condition usually happens in the lower part of the colon which is also known as the sigmoid colon. This part is also considered more sensitive and weaker than the rest of the areas of the colon in the person.

When the affected pouches form, the condition is known as is called diverticulosis. Typically, this does not cause any problems or show any symptoms. But when the pouches become irritated, inflamed, or infected, it can cause serious issues and even hospitalization.

An important thing to see here is many people have confusions when it comes to the terms diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and diverticular diseases. This is because although the terms are used interchangeably, they are different from one another.

Diverticulosis refers to the presence and formation of pouches in the colon while diverticulitis means those formed pouches have become inflamed or infected. Diverticular disease, on the other hand, is used for a whole spectrum of signs occurring due to the formation of the pouches.

While infections in the digestive tract and colon can be due to many reasons, the infection that occurs in diverticulitis has one major reason – blockage and accumulation of the diverticula sacs due to fecal matter.

When the fecal matter causes starts accumulating in the sacs, it not only blocks them but allows plenty of room for bacteria growth which results in inflammation and eventually an infection usually starting from the lower colon.

Sac growth while having an infection is the main reason behind the discomfort and the pain experienced in diverticulitis as it can put an abnormal amount of pressure on the walls of the intestine leading to bloating, abdominal discomfort, and gas.

What Are The Symptoms of Diverticulitis?

Most of the cases of diverticulitis require immediate hospitalization because they are diagnosed at a stage where the infection has developed dangerously and cannot be managed alone by taking medicines at home.

This situation comes about because, in a majority of the cases, the person sees almost no symptoms of the condition developing in the colon. In accordance with the latest research, only about 10 to 20 percent of the people see signs of diverticulitis.

The symptoms of diverticulitis vary from person to person and can be anything from extreme abdominal pain linked with an increase of the total number of white cells or leukocytosis along with fever which needs hospitalization or repeated, mild abdominal pain.

On the other hand, a research published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, about 80 to 90 percent of the people with diverticulitis experience little to no symptoms or in other words are asymptomatic.

The estimated 10 to 20 percent of people who do have symptoms while having diverticulitis, 75 percent of them experience painful diverticular disease without the inflammation, 2 to 3 percent need immediate hospitalization, and 0.5 require a surgery.

The most prevalent sign to look out for if checking for diverticulitis is a pain in the lower left side of the abdomen which can be excruciating and happens due to the inflammation or infection in the pouches. The intensity of the pain can also increase and worsen over time.

An acute form of diverticulitis usually comes with high levels of inflammation, abscess formation, and micro perforation. About 25 to 30 percent of the people also have reoccurring episodes several times a week.

Some of the diverticulitis symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Tenderness in the lower abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Cramping
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

The 25 percent of the people having diverticulitis also develop several of the complications that come with it. The common problems that come with the conditions are:

  • Abscess
    Fever, vomiting, tenderness in the lower abdomen, and constant nausea happen due to the abscess which is a swollen, infected, and often pus-filled area outside the colon. This is also the reason behind half of the pain in diverticulitis.
  • Fistula
    The unusual and abnormal pathway between two organs in the body. For example, a tunnel between the colon and the bladder.
  • Perforation
    A small hole or tear in any one or more pouches in the colon
  • Intestinal Obstruction
    A partial blockage of the movement of the stool or even the food in the intestines. In extreme cases, there are also chances of getting a total blockage.
  • Peritonitis
    Further infection and inflammation in the lining of the abdomen caused due to the leakage of stool or pus through a perforation

What Causes Diverticulitis?

The latest researchers have shown that the possibility of developing diverticulitis and diverticulosis have a direct relation to the process of aging. This means older people are on average more likely to develop the condition.

According to a study published in Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery, both of the conditions are far more common in industrialized countries. Recently, the chances of having diverticulitis have increased dramatically especially in the elderly.

It has been estimated that over 40 percent of the population has developed diverticulitis and approximately 20 to 25 percent of the people with diverticulosis will develop diverticulitis along with other digestive issues.

The research also showed that women over the age of 50 were at a higher chance of developing diverticulitis than men but men under the age of 50 were more likely to have the condition than the women in the same ages.

Other reasons that can increase your chances of getting diverticulitis or worsening it are:

  • Smoking
  • A diet high in red meat and fat
  • Obesity
  • Lack of fiber intake
  • Sedentary lifestyle with lack of physical activity
  • Certain medications (such as NSAIDs)