Diverticulitis has been on the rise in recent decades, causing debilitating symptoms that land increasingly more people in the hospital. And while it used to be considered more of an older person’s disease, more younger adults are experiencing it.
If you’re showing signs of diverticulitis, seeing a doctor sooner than later is important for your overall health and for staving off potential complications. Dr. Nina Paonessa of Paonessa Colon & Rectal Surgery, PC, uses conservative treatments to address these symptoms.
Many people have diverticula, or small pouches, in the digestive tract. The pouches themselves are harmless unless they pop out of your intestinal wall — a condition known diverticulosis — and then become infected and inflamed. When this happens, you have diverticulitis. While no one knows exactly what causes diverticulitis, it’s believed to derive from tears or holes in the diverticula that stem from factors, like pushing too hard when you’re constipated. The most common condition affecting the colon, diverticulosis affects roughly half of Americans by age 60. Only some of these individuals develop diverticulitis.
While most anyone can develop diverticulitis, certain factors raise your risk, including:
- Certain medications, such as steroids, opioids, and non-steroidal pain relievers
- Increasing age
- Carrying excess weight
- Genetics/family history
- Sedentary lifestyle
Diverticulitis symptoms are fueled by two factors: inflammation and infection. In some ways, it’s similar to having the flu, another inflammatory infection, but in your colon instead of your respiratory tract. For that reason, some of the symptoms overlap.
Common signs of diverticulitis include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Abdominal bloating, pain, and tenderness
- Chills and/or fever
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Frequent urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rectal bleeding
Symptoms may strike suddenly or start subtly and gradually worsen. In either case, the sooner you get diagnosed and treated, the better. Early treatment for diverticulitis can help lower your risk for complications, such as:
- Colon obstruction
- Potentially life-threatening infection that spreads throughout your body
- Severe rectal bleeding
Once Dr. Paonessa diagnoses you with diverticulitis, she’ll likely begin with conservative treatments, particularly in milder cases. Depending on her assessment, your treatment plan may include:
- Dietary changes, such as increased fiber intake
- Stool softeners
- Surgery, for severe cases
Regardless of your treatment specifics, a fiber-rich diet can help lower your risk for additional problems in the future. By eating more nutritious fiber sources, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, you can invite the added perks of boosted overall health, too. Such a diet is linked not only with improved digestive function, but better cardiovascular health and a lower risk for other chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
To learn more about the signs of diverticulitis or find out if you could benefit from its treatment, call Paonessa Colon & Rectal Surgery, PC, or book an appointment with Dr. Paonessa through our website.