Diverticulosis or Diverticulitis? Which One Do You Have?
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.
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!
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.
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.
High fiber diet
Both require antibiotics in differing strengths
Severe diverticulitis is accompanied by severe pain
Mild pain medication
Strong pain medication
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.)
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!
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