What are Diverticula?
Diverticula commonly appear in people aged 40 and above. They do not usually cause problems. Diverticula can be thought of as elongated balloons with thin patches. When air fills the balloon, the air occupies more space in the thin patches first. Similarly, diverticulum form in the weak spots of the intestinal wall, filling up those spots with air or fluid.
The size of the diverticulum can be pea-sized and sometimes larger. People with diverticulosis experience mild or no symptoms. On the other hand, people with diverticulitis often experience more disconcerting symptoms.
Causes of Diverticulitis
Experts are unsure about the exact cause of diverticulosis and diverticulitis. However some believe that these occur due to lack of fiber in one’s diet. When stool becomes too dry, the colon needs to exert more to pass the stool through. The high pressure causes the weakest points of the intestinal wall to protrude and in some cases erode, which then causes diverticulitis. Diverticulitis may also occur if stool gets in the sacs, causing a bacterial infection
Another factor for the development of diverticulosis and diverticulitis is genes. Doctors have observed that people from the west develop diverticulosis in the last third of the colon, while people from Asia develop diverticulosis in the first section of the large intestine.
Diverticulitis is also linked to lack of exercise, obesity, medication and smoking.
Signs and Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis is often asymptomatic (no symptoms) but in some cases, people experience mild symptoms in the lower abdomen such as:
- Abdominal Cramps. Patients experience miild pain due to a tight feeling in the muscles of the stomach.
- Constipation. This refers to infrequent bowel movements and difficulty in passing the stool.
- Bloating. Discomfort and feeling “stuffed”.
- Flatulence. Abdominal discomfort due to build-up of gas
Diverticulitis manifests more symptoms such as: