ZocdocAnswersWhat happens when you are diagnosed with diverticulitis?

Question

What happens when you are diagnosed with diverticulitis?

I was diagnosed with diverticulitis. Now what? I don't know how long this is going to take to cure and I am very scared. My doctor is just saying a lot of confusing things and I don't know what questions I should be asking.

Answer

The first thing you need to be clarify is whether you have diverticulitis or diverticulosis. There's an important distinction between the two. Diverticulosis is a condition where small outpouchings are formed throughout the colon (large intestine) which can become infected and inflamed, which can lead to diverticulitis. So essentially diverticulitis is a complication of diverticulosis. Some risk factors for diverticulosis are low fiber, high fat diet (the so called "western" diet), a diet high in red meat, and increasing age. Many people develop diverticulosis. In fact, up to 30-40% of patients over the age of 50 have diverticulosis. This is usually diagnosed with CT scan or colonoscopy. Most people with diverticulosis don't even know it, because it is usually asymptomatic. However diverticulosis can lead to diverticulitis if one or several of the diverticuli get inflamer and/or infected. This can lead to pain, diarrhea, fevers, chills, peritonitis and sepsis (spread of infection to the bloodstream). Most mild cases of diverticulitis are treated with a hospitalization, IV antibiotics and fluids, nothing by mouth. In more sever cases such as in frank perforation, the effected segment of colon may need to be resected surgically. Please speak to your doctor about the difference between diverticulosis and diverticulitis and clarify which one you have. Unfortunately there's not much you can do to prevent diverticuLITIS. And if you have multiple episodes of diverticulitis (even if they're mild), you may need to have that portion of your colon (usually the sigmoid colon) resected to prevent further episodes and complications.

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