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Diverticular Disease

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How Is Diverticulosis Treated?

People who have diverticulosis without symptoms or complications do not need specific treatment, yet it is important to adopt a high-fiber diet to prevent the further formation of diverticula.

Laxatives should not be used to treat diverticulosis and enemas should also be avoided or used infrequently.

What Are the Complications of Diverticulitis?

Serious complications can occur as a result of diverticulitis. Most of them are the result of the development of a tear or perforation of the intestinal wall. If this occurs, intestinal waste material can leak out of the intestines and into the surrounding abdominal cavity causing the following problems:

  • Peritonitis (a painful infection of the abdominal cavity)
  • Abscesses ("walled off" infections in the abdomen)
  • Obstruction (blockages of the intestine)

If an abscess is present, the doctor will need to drain the fluid by inserting a needle into the infected area. Sometimes surgery is needed to clean the abscess and remove part of the colon. If the infection spreads into the abdominal cavity (peritonitis), surgery is needed to clean the cavity and remove the damaged part of the colon. Without proper treatment, peritonitis can be fatal.

Infection can lead to scarring of the colon, and the scar tissue may cause a partial or complete blockage. A partial blockage does not require emergency surgery. However, surgery is required with complete blockage.

Another complication of diverticulitis is the formation of a fistula. A fistula is an abnormal connection between two organs, or between an organ and the skin. A common type of fistula is between the bladder and colon. This requires surgery to remove the fistula and affected part of the colon.

How Can Diverticulosis Be Prevented?

To prevent diverticular disease or reduce the complications from it, maintain good bowel habits. Have regular bowel movements and avoid constipation and straining. Eating appropriate amounts of the right types of fiber and drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly will help keep bowels regulated.

The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Every person, regardless of the presence of diverticula, should try to consume this much fiber every day. Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods. High-fiber foods include whole grain breads, cereals, and crackers; berries; fruit; vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach, carrots, asparagus, squash, and beans; brown rice; bran products; and cooked dried peas and beans, among other foods.

Drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, monitoring changes in bowel movements (from constipation to diarrhea) and getting enough rest and sleep, are other ways to prevent diverticular disease.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on September 04, 2014
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