4 Signs that You May Have Diverticulitis

4 Signs that You May Have Diverticulitis

Probably because of our meat-heavy, vegetable- and fruit-poor Western diet, diverticular disease is on the rise. Almost half of adults over age 60 in the West have little sacs of tissue called diverticula in the weak area of their colons. About 10% of those people have complications from the diverticula, including an infection called diverticulitis

One hundred years ago, only 2-10% of the population developed diverticula. A normal colon should be smooth and pouch free, no matter what your age.

You may learn that you have diverticula — a condition known as diverticulosis — when you undergo a colonoscopy or another procedure at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford. Most of the time, diverticulosis in itself doesn’t cause any problems.

If you experience pain or other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, however, then your diverticulosis may have progressed to diverticulitis. Abdominal pain can be a sign of diverticulitis, even if you were never officially diagnosed with diverticulosis.

Our colorectal experts want you to pay attention to the symptoms of diverticulitis so you can get treatment and avoid potentially serious complications. Following are some signs you could have diverticulitis.

Your abdomen is painful or tender

The main symptom of infected diverticula is extreme pain that persists for several days. Most of the time, the pain is most severe in the lower left side of your abdomen. However, occasionally — especially if you’re of Asian background — the most severe pain is in the lower right quadrant.

Abdominal pain that’s excruciating or long-lasting should always be investigated. For instance, lower-right quadrant pain could be diverticulitis or it could be the sign of a burst appendix.

Just as an infected appendix can rupture and put your life in danger, so can infected diverticula. Complications of diverticulitis include:

If you have extreme abdominal pain, get to the emergency room as soon as possible. 

You can’t “go” … or go too much

Constipation is another sign of diverticulitis, with or without abdominal pain. So is diarrhea. Changes in your bowel habits deserve medical attention and investigation so you can get an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. 

If you have a low-fiber diet that doesn’t include enough fresh vegetables and other fiber-rich foods, that lack of “roughage” may have contributed to your developing diverticulosis in the first place. A low-fiber diet also makes it difficult to produce bulky stools that pass easily through your digestive tract.

A poor diet or infected diverticula can also lead to diarrhea. Diarrhea is defined as having three or more watery stools per day. Diarrhea is a dangerous condition because you lose water with your stools and are at risk for dehydration. The constant passing of watery stools also prevents your body from absorbing the nutrients in the foods you eat.

You feel nauseated, or actually vomit

When your GI tract is diseased, you may feel nauseated when you try to eat. You may also vomit. If you can’t keep your food down, you either have diverticulitis or another medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and resolved.

You have fever, or chills

Another serious symptom of diverticulitis is fever, with or without chills. Because diverticulitis is an infection, a fever is your body’s attempt to kill the pathogens that cause it. Aspirin and other over-the-counter methods of reducing your fever could further irritate your inflamed gut.

Don’t dismiss diverticulitis symptoms

Diverticulitis, untreated, can lead to serious complications, including a fatal sepsis infection. When your gut doesn’t function or is painful, that’s a sign your body is struggling with an issue that needs to be resolved. Call us immediately if you have severe abdominal pain, nausea, chronic constipation or diarrhea, or other symptoms of diverticulitis.

Depending on how severe your case is, you may only need a brief course of antibiotics to clear the infection and get back on track. If you have abscesses, fistulas, scarring, or blockages, we may need to repair them surgically.

Listen to your gut. If it’s telling you it’s in distress, or if you think you have diverticulitis, you can get help. Call us today at 860-242-8591, or book online at the office nearest you. We are New England’s largest specialist colorectal practice, with convenient offices in Bloomfield, South Windsor, Enfield, and Plainville, Connecticut.

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