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What Are the Symptoms of Diverticulitis?

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  • Originally Written By: K. Gierok
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2016
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The most common symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal tenderness and digestive distress, including gas and nausea. Less common but more serious problems include bleeding and bladder infection. In most cases, the condition will resolve itself with time and proper treatment, and most people fully recover within a matter of days after a diagnosis. Prompt care is important, though. If diverticulitis is allowed to progress unchecked, it can lead to much more serious symptoms including prolonged pain and potentially even death. Those who experience the symptoms of this condition should seek medical attention as soon as possible to ensure proper treatment. Regular preventative check-ups will also help catch the problem early so as to allow for early medical intervention.

Understanding the Condition Generally

In its simplest sense, diverticulitis is an inflammation of the digestive system, in particular the intestines. Both the large and small human intestine are lined with a porous, fleshy substance that can be prone to irritation. Diverticulitis happens when small pockets or pouches, known medically as “diverticula,” form along the lining of the intestines and sometimes also the colon. These pouches alone aren’t necessarily problematic, and many people who have them have no symptoms. Symptoms most commonly arise when bacteria collects in the crevices in and around the pouches, which can lead to inflammation and, ultimately, infection.

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Abdominal Tenderness

One of the most common symptoms of diverticulitis is abdominal tenderness. The nature of this abdominal pain or tenderness can vary among patients. It may be most severe in the morning and decrease in intensity over the course of the day, or it may fluctuate throughout the day or vary in conjunction with bowel movements. The onset of the pain may also vary. That is, the pain may come on quickly and severely, or it may slowly increase in intensity over days or weeks. Most people are sensitive to both touch and movement, and stretching or straining often makes things worse.

Digestive Distress

Bloating is also very commonly reported. Usually, bloating is accompanied with related issues like increased gas or flatulence, constipation, and intestinal cramping. Relatedly, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be implicated. Of course, bloating alone or even bloating along with these other digestive system issues like constipation or gas isn't necessarily indicative of diverticulitis. A lot of things, including both diet and lifestyle, can influence digestive function. People don’t usually need to be concerned unless these problems persist for a number of days, particularly if they don’t respond to changes or medications.

Nausea and vomiting may also be signs of diverticulitis. In severe cases, blood may even be present in the vomit. Sometimes people may also experience fever, chills, and intense abdominal pain.

Bleeding

A much more rare symptom of diverticulitis is bleeding. Colonic and intestinal bleeding may be identified by bloody stool, though it’s important to note that not all bloody stool is not necessarily a sign of bleeding in the intestines or colon. Regardless, any blood associated with bowel movements should be brought to the attention of a health care professional.

Bladder Infections

In extreme cases patients might also experience bladder infections or difficulty urinating. Urination may be implicated in diverticulitis cases if a fistula, or small perforation, forms and connects the diverticula to the bladder. Though this is more common in men with diverticulitis than women it certainly can present in both genders. The result is typically a urinary tract infection that may make urination painful or much more frequent than normal.

Importance of Prompt Treatment

When left untreated for a significant period of time, diverticulitis can result in dizziness and even shock. Shock often occurs due to a substantial amount of internal blood loss and subsequent decrease in blood pressure. In the most severe cases, extreme shock can lead to unconsciousness or even death. Individuals who have been diagnosed with diverticulitis in the past or who believe they may currently be suffering from the condition should seek medical assistance as soon as possible. As with many medical conditions, the faster the problem is diagnosed, the better the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

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