Diverticulosis, otherwise known as diverticular disease, is the condition of having diverticula in the colon, which are outpocketings of the colonic mucosa and submucosa through weaknesses of muscle layers in the colonic wall. Diverticulosis is more common in the sigmoid colon. This is uncommon before the age of 40, and increases in incidence after that age.
Often diverticulosis has no symptoms.
The most common symptoms include:
• Abdominal pain/cramping in the left lower abdomen
• Non-specific chronic discomfort in the left lower abdomen
• Changes in the bowel movements (constipation or diarrhoea)
• Fever (sign of inflammation, so called diverticulitis)
• Perforation, abscess formation
• Bleeding (first time bleeding from the rectum over age 40 could be due to colorectal cancer instead of diverticulosis!).
Colonoscopy is the most used test for diagnosis. Colonoscopy is also important for colorectal cancer screening, investigation of other diseases with similar symptoms. Other diagnostic tests include barium enema, abdominal ultrasound, CT-scan or MRI.
Many patients with diverticulosis have minimal or no symptoms, and do not require specific treatment. Increases in hydration, a high-fiber diet and fiber supplements are advisable to prevent constipation and the formation of more diverticula. Patients with mild symptoms may benefit from anti-spasmodic drugs. Infection of a diverticulum can result in diverticulitis that can be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes surgery should also be taken in consideration.