What is Colon Diverticulitis?

Nat Robinson

Colon diverticulitis is a condition that occurs when a diverticulum forms in the wall of the intestines and becomes inflamed. A diverticulum is an abnormal pouch, typically found in the intestinal wall of the colon or large intestine. One abnormal pouch is known as a diverticulum, however, several are called diverticula. Although these abnormal pouches are most often found in the colon, it is possible for a diverticulum to form at any location in the digestive system. A severe case of colon diverticulitis can make a person very ill.

A computed tomography (CT) scan can be used to diagnose diverticulitis.
A computed tomography (CT) scan can be used to diagnose diverticulitis.

The approximate cause of colon diverticulitis is not known. It has been suggested that a diverticulum may become inflamed by fecal matter trapped in a small opening in the abnormal pouch. In addition, a reduction of blood flow to the pouch could cause it to become inflamed. One of the most general causes is believed to be a weakening in the intestinal wall due to pressure. It is not clearly understood why, but this condition usually affects individuals over the age of 40.

Colon diverticulitis can cause severe abdominal pain.
Colon diverticulitis can cause severe abdominal pain.

Abdominal pain is usually the most severe colon diverticulitis symptom. The lower left side is commonly the location of the stomach pain. Frequently, the pain intensifies and becomes greater with time. Abdominal bloating can be a symptom as well, though this symptom is not experienced by everyone with this condition.

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Nausea and vomiting will occur in some individuals. Many people will experience diarrhea or constipation and the abdomen may become tender. It is not one of the most prevalent symptoms, but slight rectal bleeding is possible. Other symptoms can involve fever, chills and a loss of appetite. As a result of this condition, weight loss may be experienced.

Before any diagnostic test is performed, the doctor will carefully examine the patient and interview him or her about the symptoms being experienced. When a person comes into an emergency room or doctor's office with symptoms of colon diverticulitis, several tests may be conducted. In the average case, a computerized tomography (CT) scan will be done. This type of imaging test will be useful in indicating the presence of abnormal colon pouches. A blood test may also be used to confirm the presence of an infection.

The severity of symptoms in a condition like colon diverticulitis can vary. Some individuals experience very mild symptoms, while others may have more problematic complications. A mild form of this condition may be sufficiently treated with antibiotics. It may also be necessary to follow a liquid diet in the first few days after getting the illness. Patients may be advised to incorporate more fiber into their diet after the inflammation has cleared.

Often, colon diverticulitis can become rather serious. Some individuals get very sick with the condition and require hospitalization. Surgery is occasionally used to treat this illness. In many cases, a bowel resection is part of a surgery done for this condition. In a bowel resection, damaged parts of the colon are removed.

CT scans can detect any abnormal colon pouches caused by diverticulitis.
CT scans can detect any abnormal colon pouches caused by diverticulitis.

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