What is diverticulitis?
Formations called diverticula are key components of diverticulitis. Diverticula are pouches that occur along your digestive tract, most often in your colon (large intestine).
These pouches form when weak spots in the intestinal wall balloon outward. When these pouches become inflamed, or bacteria gather in them and cause an infection, you have diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis often requires treatment because it typically causes symptoms and can lead to serious health complications.
The signs and symptoms of diverticulitis include:
- Pain, which may be constant and persist for several days. Pain is usually felt on the lower left side of the abdomen but may occur on the right, especially in people of Asian descent
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal tenderness
- Constipation or, less commonly, diarrhoea
What Causes Diverticulitis?
Doctors don’t think one thing, in particular, leads to diverticulitis. They do agree that the root cause of the condition is fecal matter blocking the opening of diverticula, which leads to inflammation and infection. However, they think the reasons for that blockage can vary from person to person
Multiple factors seem to lead to diverticulitis. Researchers’ opinions on these factors have changed over the years. For instance, constipation is no longer considered a risk factor
Today, recent research supports several risk factors:
- A low-fibre diet: A lack of dietary fibre has long been suspected as a risk factor, but research has had conflicting results. Nevertheless, it’s still thought by some to be related to the onset of diverticulitis
- Heredity: Diverticulitis seems to have a hereditary link. A study of siblings and twins proposes that more than 50 percent of potential risk of diverticular disease comes from genetics
- Obesity: Being obese is a clear risk factor for diverticulitis. Research has shown that obesity raises the risk of diverticulitis and bleeding, but researchers aren’t sure of the reason behind this link
- Lack of physical exercise: It’s unclear if a sedentary lifestyle is a real risk factor. However, research suggests that exercise reduces the risk of diverticular disease. People who exercise less than 30 minutes a day appear to have increased risk
- Smoking: Research shows that smoking increases the risk of symptomatic and complicated diverticular disease
- Certain medications: Regular use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may raise your risk of diverticulitis. The use of opiates and steroids appears to raise your risk of perforation, a serious complication of diverticulitis
- Lack of vitamin D: One study found that people with complicated diverticulitis may have lower levels of vitamin D in their system than people with uncomplicated diverticulosis. This study suggests that vitamin D levels seem to be related to complications of the disease, although the exact reason is unclear
- Sex: In people age 50 and younger, diverticulitis appears to be slightly more common in men than women. In people older than 50, it seems slightly more common in women