Nearly 50% of Americans develop diverticulitis by the age of 60, according to the National Institutes of Health. At East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy in Patchogue, New York, experienced gastroenterologist Christopher Tomaino, MD, diagnoses and treats this painful condition. Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches that develop in the intestines become infected. To learn more, call East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, or schedule an appointment online today.

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticula are small pouches that form in weak spots in the large intestine. They’re very common in older adults, and nearly everyone has diverticula by the time they reach the age of 80. Unfortunately, these small pockets can become inflamed or infected, leading to diverticulitis.

While some patients experience no symptoms with diverticulitis, it can be a painful, uncomfortable condition for others. In rare cases, inflammatory diverticulitis can even cause a rupture in the bowel.

What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis symptoms can range from mild and nearly unnoticeable to debilitating. Without treatment, diverticulitis may cause:

  • Lower left side abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Bright red blood in your stool
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Gas
  • Constipation

While it’s less common than constipation, diverticulitis can sometimes cause diarrhea.

What causes diverticulitis?

Diverticula develop in weak spots in the walls of your colon. If feces blocks them or they tear from too much pressure, the diverticula can become infected or inflamed, resulting in diverticulitis.

Most patients with diverticulitis are over the age of 40, but it can occur at any age. Your risk of developing diverticulitis increases with age. Other common risk factors for diverticulitis include:

  • Being overweight
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • A high-fat, low-fiber diet
  • A sedentary lifestyle

Overuse of anti-inflammatory pain relievers, opioids, and steroids can also raise your risk of developing diverticulitis.

How do doctors diagnose diverticulitis?

Because the symptoms of diverticulitis can resemble other gastrointestinal disorders, Dr. Tomaino at East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy may perform a physical exam and order blood work, a stool test, and a CT scan to rule out other conditions. Women may also need a pelvic exam to make sure their symptoms aren’t stemming from a gynecological issue, such as ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids.

What are the treatments for diverticulitis?

If you have an infected diverticula, Dr. Tomaino may prescribe antibiotics and recommend a liquid-only diet while your intestines recover.

In some cases, diverticulitis can cause peritonitis — inflammation of the membrane that lines the intestines — or ruptured intestines. To prevent further complications, you may need surgery.

Diverticulitis can also lead to an abdominal abscess, a pocket of pus, and potentially harmful bacteria. If an abdominal abscess ruptures, it can cause severe pain and spread bacteria throughout your abdomen. To ensure this doesn’t happen, Dr. Tomaino can drain your abscess.

Call East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, or schedule an appointment online today for more information on diverticulitis.

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