Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis

Diverticulosis refers to pouches that form anywhere in the wall of the intestine but are more commonly found in the sigmoid colon (the last part of the large intestine just before the rectum).  A single pouch is referred to as a diverticulum, but typically there are more than one.

These pouches are many balloon-like sacs in the wall of the small or large intestines.  Some of the pouches can be as large as an inch or more in diameter. Diverticulosis is not dangerous and most people with diverticulosis do not have symptoms.  Some myths about diverticulosis are quite false:  diverticulosis does not cause colon cancer, and seeds or nuts are not the cause of diverticulosis or diverticulitis.

Since the sigmoid colon is narrower than other parts of the intestine, and it is also more tortuous (looped), the colon has more trouble pushing hard stool through this narrowed area. Weak areas in the wall of the colon start to form into pouches (diverticulosis).

The majority of people with diverticulosis usually develop the condition during middle age and will not have any symptoms during their lifetime. Most diverticula form from weaknesses in the bowel wall where small blood vessels penetrate.  This is why some people with diverticulosis bleed.  When harder stool passes through the colon, the pressure across the bowel wall allows the “tics” to form.   A small number of patients are born with congenital types of diverticulosis.  The vast majority are acquired with time and age. Some patients may develop diverticula caused by spasms in the intestines as a result of hard stool and straining during bowel movement (constipation). The best prevention of complications of diverticular disease is simply to take a stool softener. Fiber based products are excellent when constipation is present.

Patients with mild diverticulitis (infection in the “tic”) are treated with bowel rest, a liquid diet, and often are prescribed oral antibiotics. Sometimes the diverticula become inflamed or bleed when hard stool gets stuck in the pouch causing unexplained painful cramps, increasingly difficult bowel movement, or blood in the stool. Stool that is trapped may not only cause discomfort and bleeding but also may cause infection and inflammation. This inflammation of the pouch or “tic” results in diverticulitis.

For patients with severe symptoms, hospitalization may be required. Admission to the hospital is common when a larger perforation occurs and an abscess (pus) develops in the abdomen.  Another reason for hospital admission is brisk bleeding. Intravenous antibiotics may be required and sometimes, if an abscess has developed, drainage may be needed (either radiologically or surgically).  Severe perforations may require emergency surgery.

The physicians and surgeons at the Center for Colon & Rectal Health offer a variety of modern colorectal treatments and methods of superior levels of care for patients who suffer from a variety of colorectal conditions, including diverticulitis.

More Information

Our goal is to provide you with a safe and comfortable environment. Every patient is different. We strive to offer you the most accurate and effective treatment options.

Please contact Bucks County’s premier colorectal group to schedule an appointment and to learn more.

St. Mary Medical Center
St. Clare Medical Building, Suite 130
1203 Langhorne-Newtown Road
Langhorne, PA 19047