Diverticulosis or Diverticulitis? Which One Do You Have?

Introduction

If you're over thirty you've most likely heard the terms diverticulosis and diverticulitis...but what are they? Are they different names for the same thing and do they have anything to do with diving? Or the ocean or should you really take them personally? The answer is the latter as they are digestive disorders. Yes, both of them and yes, they are different. To add insult to injury have you heard of Diverticular Disease?

Let's go back a minute, they are not ulcers...nor heartburn...so what are they? Actually, they are two separate things. Diverticulosis is sacs or pouches in the intestine and Diverticulitis is when those small sacs become inflamed and/or infected. So you can have diverticulosis without having diverticulitis but you can't have diverticulitis without having diverticulosis first!

Oh, and Diverticular Disease...encompasses both of these conditions into one disease.

History

It seems this dynamic duo was first introduced in the United States in the early 1900s. The first surgery for diverticulitis was performed at the Mayo Clinic in 1907.

Apparently it is more common in industrialized nations, where we have more processed foods. Countries like Asia and Africa have a much lower incidence of either condition. In spite of these facts, the exact cause of either condition is unknown. However, (there is always a 'however') a low fiber diet seems to be a major contributor to either one. It affects both men and women showing no preference for either sex.

Approximately ten percent of Americans over the age of forty have diverticulosis and by age sixty that statistic rises to more than fifty percent...yet one more benefit to look forward to as we age! Another charming statistic you may like to add to your repertoire; only about ten percent of people with diverticulosis develop diverticulitis and of those who get diverticulitis, fifty percent have a recurrence (of diverticulitis). Are we having fun yet?

In a seminar on Diverticular Disease of the Colon, Neil Stollman, Jeffrey B Raskin stated, "Data show a substantial rise in colonic diverticula within the past few decades." More proof our diets are getting even with us!

Your Doctor

See your doctor if symptoms persist.
See your doctor if symptoms persist. | Source

Diverticulosis

Many people with diverticulosis never even know they have it....it is sometimes found on autopsy...or during other examinations such as a routine colonoscopy or CT Scan, or barium enema for another ailment.

Mild issues with diverticulosis will lead your doctor to advise you to watch your diet. Increase your fiber intake. At one point in time patients were advised to avoid nuts, corn, and popcorn but in a 2008 study, The Journal of the American Medical Association stated these three may actually help because of their fiber content.

Pain

Pain, bloating and cramping are signs of diverticulitis
Pain, bloating and cramping are signs of diverticulitis | Source

Diverticulitis

Here's where the plot thickens, literally. as layers of the colon become less elastic and stiffen. Diverticulosis in itself is not harmful but as it develops into diverticulitis it takes on a whole different character. Pain begins to appear on the scene and it can be accompanied by bloating and cramping. There may be blood in the stool and this may or may not be accompanied by fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea. Not all of the symptoms need be present...its more of the severity than the number of symptoms.

Another clue that your diverticulosis is now diverticulitis is the symptom(s) will last for more than a day or two. When they do, its time to call the doctor. The severity of your diverticulitis can range from mild to life threatening...yes life threatening. Because you see, diverticulitis can lead to a perforated colon, peritonitis, abscess or fistula...all of which are serious and life threatening conditions.

Diverticulitis Treatment

Mild
Severe
Remarks
High fiber diet
Hospital admission
Both require antibiotics in differing strengths
Clealr Liquids
IV antibiotics
Severe diverticulitis is accompanied by severe pain
Mild pain medication
Strong pain medication
 
antibiotics
 
 
Once you have had diverticulitis chances are it will recur.

Pain is usually in the lower left part of the colon but of course can be in any part but statistics show it happens in seventy percent of patients. Touching or pressing on the lower left part of the colon by your doctor will cause more than a little pain and discomfort! (I did read in my research that right-sided diverticulitis is more common in people of Asian descent.)

Exercise to stay well!
Exercise to stay well! | Source
Gardening is great exercise.
Gardening is great exercise. | Source

Why?

Why would I choose this topic to write about? Well, because I have diverticulosis and had a bout with diverticulitis. Of course when I first "got sick" I had no idea what was wrong with me. I didn't know at the time that I had diverticulosis. I just had this awful pain in my lower stomach that kept getting worse. By day three I could barely walk. My husband drove me to the doctor (I actually saw the Physician's Assistant) and she ordered an immediate CAT Scan. After waiting four hours in the Emergency Room I finally had the CAT Scan. Four more hours and I was told I was being admitted because I had diverticulitis. It's a good thing I wasn't dying. Of course my lying on the couches and moaning and groaning while waiting for the Scan results finally prompted the ER doctor to give me something for the pain!

I was in the hospital for three days. At the end of day two I was told I had contracted C.diff (Clostridium difficile colitis)....bacteria that attack the lining of the stomach. It seems the antibiotic I was taking for the diverticulitis probably killed off bacteria that kept C.diff in check...without that 'check' C.diff becomes overgrown and there you have it! So, how do you treat C.diff? With antibiotics of course! Not just any antibiotics, but super broad spectrum antibiotic called Flagyl.

I never like to do things in a small way so my C.diff needed ten days of intravenous antibiotic treatment. Luckily the infectious disease specialist I had does IV treatments in his office so instead of having to stay in the hospital for ten more days, I was able to go home and just drive to his office to get my fix, I mean IV, every day for ten days....that is yet another interesting story.

But, back to my diverticulitis....bet you thought I forgot about that. It went away with treatment. My doctor advised not to eat nuts, corn, or popcorn for about six months to allow my intestine to heal. He suggested then adding one at a time to make sure I had no adverse reaction. Lastly, he advised should I have another bout of diverticulitis he would only have to remove a small portion of my intestine...excuse me? Remove? Now you have to realize, its not the removal of that piece of intestine that scares me, its the temporary colostomy that does. While the intestine is healing a colostomy bag is used to allow the intestine a full recovery. Once it is completely healed, the colostomy bag is removed...more surgery, more incisions....not something you look forward to.

Conclusion? Get plenty of fiber in your diet, eat right and exercise. Oh, and as you get older, take better care of yourself, your body will thank you!

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved.

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Comments 33 comments

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

Very good explanation of this. I never knew the difference. Glad you are recovered and I am sure it was painful for you. Thanks for sharing. I will do the same as well as vote UP.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

As you can see Carol, I learned the difference the hard way ;) Glad you found this useful. Thanks for sharing and voting! Have a good one.


LaThing profile image

LaThing 4 years ago from From a World Within, USA

Wow, never heard of this! Thanks for the info.... The symptoms sound almost like appendicitis inflammation. Eating fiber is extremely important. Sharing this everywhere..... Hope you are doing well! Take care.....


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

La Thing perhaps you are too young to know about it? Seriously, it is very common in the US but more so among older people. I am doing fine, thank you for asking and thank you for stopping by! Have a great day!


Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 4 years ago

Mary, I was in pain while reading this, because I'm 30% hypocondriac. My brain is sensitive and gullible to certain issues. That's why I have a mind that drifts away into sheer inspiration. I will see this problem in the future, and you have explained it so easy. Will have to eat more salads and plenty of water. Great hub on diverticulosis and diverticulitis. curiously "Clostridium difficile" brings me the word, hard clustering bacteria from latin, which I don't know if makes sense. Thanks Till!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

My best friend has one of these....not sure which....and he has had some serious bouts with it, in and out of the hospital several times. Thank you for the education on this, Mary! I hope all is well with you, and this doesn't get any worse.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This explains a lot. Thanks so much for describing these symptoms so clearly. It does sound like appendicitis which I remember all too well from a couple of years ago.

I'm so sorry to hear you are dealing with this difficulty, Mary. I hope you're doing much better now. :)


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Ouch, gf. I'm sorry you had to go through this. Hmmmm, your tummy is not your friend, is it? You are gluten-sensitive too, right? Does one ailment relate to the other? Rather, does being gluten-sensitive lead to being prone to the diverticular disease?

I am familiar with all of these terms, but I appreciate your lesson in the definitions and the difference between them. I do know a few individuals who have dealt with these issues and am aware of the severe pain they had. YOU, however really do things in a big way! What a journey you went through to become better. It's upsetting, to say the least.

I am relieved to know that you are doing well and have had no recurrences or recent bouts.

Very informative, Til. I, like so many others, are always interested in knowing more and more about health issues.....especially at our young ages!!.....:)......UP+++


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Mary, Mary- you could be a Doc. this is a great explanation of the two that often get confused for each other. Many people in the western world have diverticulosis as it may occur as we grow older. diverticulitis on the other hand is an infection of one of these pouches. Interestingly the term 'diverticulum' means a diversion or a path away from the main. In o;den days the Roman's enjoyed shady businesses off the main roads in little blind alleys. These shady alleys were called diverticula where undesirables hanged around... much like these pouches off the intestinal speedways.

sorry to hear about your C.Diff- that is nasty stuff- glad you are better!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

I am sorry to hear that you are suffering from this problem. My mother has this also and I have seen her in a lot of pain also. This is a very informative article as many people probably do not know much about this medical problem. Voted up, useful and interesting.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

Well written and explained. I have it - them - to some degree or other plus IBS (hub about that would be useful).

Just hanging on by a thread!

Bob


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Lord, no new diseases for you, real or imagined! Actually its part Greek and part Latin; first part Greek "Clostridium" second part Latin "difficile".

I am doing fine a year or two ago and have been lucky since Bill. Sorry to hear about your friend, believe me, I know his pain!

Very similar to appendicitis Peg, you are so right! Glad you're over that.

Oh Effer, I'm just a mess though you'd never know it to look at me ;) This is not related to celiac though other ailments are...I don't fool around GF, you're right, when I do it I do it BIG! And yes, how surprising at our young age!!!

Thank you Docmo. My granddaughter wants to be a pediatrician and finds her grandmother amusing ;) Very interesting background on diverticula...still a shady place!

Pam, it is fortunately under control.


Lilleyth profile image

Lilleyth 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

Good information. Happy to hear you are on the mend!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Hanging on by a thread is not good news Bob! IBS is a catch all phrase for irritable bowel when they really don't know what's wrong!! I hope you get things under control; diverticulitis is not a permanent condition but a b@ when you get it!

Thanks Lilleyth...no problems with it since my one bout.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, thanks for giving your story on it, it must have been so painful. I had heard of it before but not exactly what it was, all those antibiotics! wow!, great explanation, and glad you are okay now, nell


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Nell. It was actually a while ago but one of those things that popped into my head and I thought, hm, something to write a hub about ;) The antibiotic thing was ironic, it cause the c.diff which is cured by more antibiotics...go figure!


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

Mary, I appreciate your sharing this important information with us. I came to your hub tonight just moments after reading another writer's lament about how we've lost certain social amenities over time.

Similarly, we've lost certain health practices over time...all in the name of progress.

Your hub is very helpful, and I'm very grateful you cared to share your personal experience with us to underscore the importance of eating right and exercising.

Hope your health has greatly improved.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

We sometimes miss the side effects of not taking care of ourselves Hawaiiandodysseus, that is, until its too late. I am only too happy to share with my "extended family". I am doing fine now and trying to "eat right" ;)


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

I hope you are better and I thank you for sharing.

It sounds so painful indeed but I am sure this hub will indeed benefit many others.

Enjoy your weekend.

Eddy.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Eddy...it was a while ago and things have been fine....I do hope it helps someone else. Thanks for reading. Have a good one!


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

Mary, this is a very interesting, useful, and well-written hub. It got my attention because my late mother had a bout with diverticulitis about 20 years ago. It was severe and put her in the hospital for a few days. I remember her saying that the pain was worse than having a baby. As you mentioned in your hub, the doctor told her to avoid nuts, corn, popcorn, and any kind of seeds which she did until her death. From what you have learned, can diverticulitis be inherited? Voted up and shared with followers and on Facebook. Also pinned.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

There are a few who say there is a possible genetic link involved with diverticulosis/itis Paul, but more emphasis is placed on diet and age. Your mother was right about the pain....at least when you have a baby the pain stops intermittently ;) Thanks for voting and passing this on.


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

My mom has this and had a bout of the diverticulitis once. Not fun and this is a really good explanation of it. Voted up.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

First hand explanations are usually the best Glimmer ;)


jantamaya profile image

jantamaya 4 years ago from UK

Hi Tillsontian, great information. Thanks for writing it. What about to start every day with a healthy breakfast? Lots of bran oats (or rolled oats), grounded brown flax seeds, some sunflowers and pumpkin seeds, some dry fruits, lots of fresh fruits (whatever you like) covered with yogurt. I prefer Greek yogurt. If you wish, you can use some milk and honey, or agave syrup over. What do you (and your doc) think about this suggestion?


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I think its excellent jantamay....any way you can add fiber to your diet is just plain good for you and this sounds like an excellent choice!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Isn't the old saying something like--If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself? Such an informative hub--I do think digestion in general gets to be a trickier item as we age---


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

You are so right Audrey, much to our surprise lots of things change as we get older, subtly but they still change.


poshcoffeeco profile image

poshcoffeeco 3 years ago from Cambridgeshire

Thanks for this interesting article. Something I had never heard of before.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Glad you've never heard of it and hope you never have to again poshcoffeeco ;)


Lindsay 17 months ago

Taking a good probiotic helps. Also aloe vera juice does a good job calming symptoms as well. I put together a list of foods and remedies that helped me during my case of diverticulitis here: http://healthygut.net/best-natural-remedies-divert...

Great post!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 17 months ago from UK and Mexico

Well worth a second read! My divi hasn't got worse but am now enjoying diabetes!

Ah, me!

Bob x


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

Thanks for the suggestions Lindsay. I'll look into it. For whatever reason probiotics don't agree with me.

Happily surprised to see you back here Bob. It seems if it isn't one thing it's another, it's ah aging.

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