Diverticulosis is a condition in which the colon suffers from the presence of diverticula, small, bulging sacs of tissue that press outward from the colon wall. Diverticula tend to form as a person ages and pressure built up in the colon causes the bulging of tissue. A person with diverticulosis may have few symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Diverticulosis alone is merely the presence of the bulging tissue sacs in the colon. However, someone with this condition is said to have diverticular disease. Often confused with diverticulitis, diverticulosis can be present in the body with no complications.
Diverticulitis is an infection of the sacs, which may rupture, and typically carries symptoms including fever, abdominal pain, and swelling. In rare cases, there may be bleeding, which requires medical attention and occasionally surgery. Though extremely rare, if an infected diverticulum ruptures into the abdominal cavity, it can be life threatening.
Discovery may occur during a routine colonoscopy, or the condition may be investigated if symptoms present themselves. Barium x-rays and abdominal ultrasounds can also detect the presence of diverticula. Changes in bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea along with abdominal cramping and bloating, can signify diverticulosis. People experiencing persistent symptoms or passing blood or tarry, black stools should call their doctor, as complications like diverticulitis or another disease of the colon may be present. Proper diagnosis is necessary for successful treatment.
Diverticulitis is treated with antibiotics and in most cases, the infection responds. In cases of severe infection with high fever and pain, excessive bleeding, or a lack of response to antibiotics, surgery may be necessary. In the more frequent occurrence of diverticulosis, a patient can often go without specific treatment. Though the benefits are not proven, a diet high in fiber is often recommended to help regulate bowel function and, if necessary, bloating can be treated with anti-spasmodic drugs.