Diverticulitis is the inflammation of abnormal pouches that bulge outward through the wall of the colon. The pouches are known as diverticuli, and the condition of having the pouches is known as diverticulosis. When the pouches become inflamed, the condition is known as diverticulitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, diverticulitis is common in people over 40 years of age. A colonoscopy is used to diagnose diverticulitis.
A colonoscopy is a test that enables the direct examination of the lining of the large intestine (rectum and colon). A flexible fiberoptic scope, known as a colonoscope, is inserted into the rectum and colon, and the lining of the colon is examined. A colonoscopy is usually conducted regularly in patients over 50 years ago, but may be recommended for younger patients with unexplained bowel habits and other symptoms of colon problems.
Diagnosis of Diverticulitis using Colonoscopy
Gastroenterologists are typically able to detect abnormal pouches found on the wall of patients suffering from diverticulosis using a colonoscopy and other intestinal procedures. A colonoscopy test should be avoided in patients with existing acute diverticulitis as the test could lead to complications such as perforation and peritonitis. Peritonitis or inflammation of the abdominal cavity may occur when an inflamed pouch is ruptured by a colonoscope leading to the leakage of colon contents into the abdominal cavity.
Causes of Diverticulitis
According to the National Institutes of Health, diverticulitis is caused by a low fiber diet, aging and lack of exercise. Constipation due to lack of fiber in the diet contributes to formation of abnormal pouches on the colon. Fiber is important in preventing diverticulitis by softening stool and lowering pressure inside the colon. High pressure against the colon from stool causes the colon to form outward pouches on weak spots along the colon.
Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Signs and symptoms of diverticulitis include lower left abdominal pain, chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, unexplained weight loss, tenderness in the lower left side of abdomen, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas. Diverticulitis is treated using broad spectrum antibiotics and pain medications. Patients may also require hospitalization, intravenous fluids and bed rest. Patients may also require surgery with temporary colostomy to remove areas of colon inflammation.
Complications of Diverticulitis
Complications of diverticulitis include bleeding, infection, perforation, abscess, blockage in the colon, formation of fistula and peritonitis. Patients with active diverticulitis should avoid having a colonoscopy to prevent further complications.