Diverticulitis

(Acute Diverticulitis; Acute Colonic Diverticulitis)

Definition

A pouch that forms in the wall of the large intestine is called a diverticulum. When this pouch becomes infected or swollen, it is called diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis
diverticulitis
Infected pouches along the colon.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

It is not clear why the pouches form. It may be due to a constant build up of pressure when food moves too slowly through the bowel. This pressure increases and pushes along the sidewalls of the bowel creating pouches. Digested food or stool can become trapped in one of the pouches. This leads to swelling and infection.

Risk Factors

This condition is more common in people who are older than 50 years of age. Factors that increase your chance of getting diverticulitis include:
  • Eating a low-fiber diet—fiber softens stools and makes them pass through the bowel more easily
  • Straining to pass a hard stool—causes increased pressure in the bowel
  • Previous episodes of diverticulitis
  • High-meat diet or high-protein diet
  • Defects in the colon wall
  • Chronic constipation
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Symptoms can come on suddenly. They vary depending on the degree of the infection.Symptoms may include:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tenderness—usually in the lower left part of the abdomen
  • Swollen and hard abdomen
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Cramping
  • Rectal bleeding

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