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Diverticulitis and Diverticular Disease, Rupture and Incidents

Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.

Fiber helps to soften stool and relieve constipation allowing smooth movement through the colon


What Is Diverticulitis and Diverticular Disease?

Diverticular disease and diverticulitis are related digestive disorders of the large bowel or colon.

Let's begin our discussion by examining the colon.

The Colon

The colon is the last part of the digestive system, also known as the large intestine. It consists of a layer of flexible tissue on the inside covered by a tougher layer of muscle. It is approximately six feet long.

The colon plays a significant role in the absorption of water and some electrolytes into the circulation before elimination. It helps to move waste material from the small intestine into the rectum and out through the anus as feces.

Meaning of "Diverticular"

Diverticular is a medical term used to describe pouches or sacs that can form in the colon that protrude and bulge out through the muscle wall. Diverticular disease is rare in parts of the world where the diet is characterized by a large intake of fruits and vegetables, and a low intake of red meat.

Diverticular disease is related to aging. It occurs in approximately 70% of people by the age of 80.

The cause of the formation of pouches or sacs are unknown. However, according to experts, eating a low-fiber diet is one of the most likely causes. Diverticular disease is common in the United States and Europe, where a high percentage of the food consumed is processed and low in fibre. The result is the formation of hard stool and constipation that increases the pressure in the colon, leading to the formation of pouches.

In certain conditions such as multiple sclerosis, where constipation is a common complication, the bowel function needs to be managed to prevent diverticulitis in cases with diverticular disease.

However, with education, people have become much more aware and are making informed choices about the right diet and lifestyle to reduce the incidence of diverticular disease and diverticulitis.

The majority of people with diverticula will not exhibit symptoms, but 1 in 4 will experience abdominal pain and diarrhoea. These are said to have diverticular disease.

The pouches in the colon can become infected and inflamed, forming areas of empyema. When this occurs, the condition is known as diverticulitis.

Risk Factors

  • Low-fiber diet
  • Alcohol. Excessive consumption may increase the possibility of diverticulitis by 2-3 times higher when compared to the general population.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen may increase the risk of diverticular disease.
  • Suppressed Immune system
  • Age. Under the age of 30, approximately 1 to 2% of people will have diverticula disease. However, the condition is found in more than 40% of the population over the age of 60. The total number of diverticula increases with age.
  • Gender. Women appear to experience complications from diverticula disease at an older age than men.