Diverticulum Facts
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Diverticulum Facts

This article describes the cause and condition of diverticulitis, its symptoms, and its treatment.

A diverticulum (plural: diverticula) is medical or biological term for an outpouching of a hollow (or a fluid filled) structure in the body. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diverticulum

Diverticulum may occur in several places in the body. In the bladder a diverticulum would probably be caused by blockage. In older men an obstruction caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia may be responsible. These may require removal by surgery.

Duodenal & Jejunal diverticula may be congenital. They can harbor bacterium that cause swelling, pain, and perforation requiring treatment or surgery.

In the large intestines diverticula are small bulging sacs pushing outward from the colon wall. As a person ages, pressure within the large intestine (colon) causes pockets of tissue (sacs) that push out from the colon walls. Diverticula can occur throughout the colon but are most common near the end of the left side of the colon, the sigmoid colon. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3085

When the diagnosis of diverticulosis is made, it means the condition is present. The patient may not have any symptoms or distress. Initially pain may be mild and the patient may dismiss it. If a diverticulum becomes engorged with food or fecal matter, an abscess may occur. When infection occurs, the diagnosis changes to diverticulitis. It can usually be treated with antibiotics.

Bleeding occurs when a sac ruptures. The bleeding may stop spontaneously, but in severe cases intervention may be necessary. A colonoscopy can be performed and the polyp snared and cauterized. If the colon is blocked, the diverticula will be at greater risk to become irritated and inflamed. If the bleeding lasts a long time, the patient may become anemic. Transfusions and supplements may be necessary to preserve strength and vitality.

Diverticulosis is most prevalent in the western hemisphere in developed countries where low fiber diets are common. At age 40 about 10% of the population will have it, and it increases with age until at 60 about half the population will have it. Most people who have diverticulosis have no symptoms and do not need any treatment. It can be diagnosed with barium Xray or a colonoscopy.

The best preventative is a high fiber diet. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruits help to prevent constipation and prevent pressure in the colon. Whole grain breads and cereals, vegetables like cauliflower, spinach, carrots, and fruits like apples, pears, and oranges should be included in the diet in generous amounts. Sometimes doctors will advise a patient to avoid popcorn, nuts, and seeds because they fear they will enter the diverticulum; there is no current data to confirm this theory.

A large percentage of the adult population has diverticulosis without any pain or symptoms, but to maintain this circumstance, prevent constipation and eat a high fiber diet.

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