Who Gets Diverticulosis?Diverticulosis tends to occur in people over the age of 40, with as many as 50% of people over the age of 60 showing signs of the disease. Diverticular disease is more common in the United States, England, and Australia, which could mean that the low-fiber diets common in these countries may be a contributing factor. Diverticular disease is less common in areas where a high-fiber diet is the norm, such as in Asia and Africa.
What Are the Symptoms of Diverticular Disease?Diverticulosis might not cause any symptoms, but in some cases there may be bleeding.
Diverticulitis is caused by infection or inflammation in the diverticula, and is often accompanied by abdominal pain. The abdominal pain is variable, and typically begins suddenly, but it could also develop over the course of several days. Symptoms of diverticulitis can include:
- Abdominal pain, especially lower left quadrant
- A change in bowel habits
Causes Of Diverticular DiseaseThe cause is not entirely understood, but Western diets, which tend to be low in fiber, and a sedentary lifestyle are thought to contribute to diverticular disease. A low-fiber diet could lead to constipation. Constipation in and of itself might not cause diverticular disease, but the straining to pass hard stools could cause the walls of the colon to bulge outward and lead to diverticula. It's not currently known why a sedentary lifestyle may also linked to diverticular disease. Diverticulitis might be caused by stool getting stuck in the diverticula.
Diagnosing Diverticular DiseaseIn the absence of any symptoms, diverticulosis usually goes undiagnosed. It's not uncommon for diverticulitis to be diagnosed when a physician is actually looking for the cause of some other symptoms, or during a routine screening colonoscopy.
Tests that can help diagnose diverticular disease include:
Colonoscopy. Diverticulitis might be found during a colonoscopy that was performed to check out symptoms, such as bleeding or abdominal pain. A colonoscopy is a routine screening test in people over the age of 50, which might lead to a diagnosis of asymptomatic diverticular disease.
Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan. A CT scan is a series of x-rays that can provide a detailed view of the abdomen and other body areas. They are typically non-invasive, painless, and harmless. In some cases, intravenous and/or oral contrast dyes are used to enhance the visibility of certain structures (such as the large intestine and any diverticula). In some cases, contrast medium, a kind of dye, is used. Contrast medium is either given in a drink, or injected into a vein. The dye helps the physician to find the organs inside the abdomen and to look for anything unusual, such as diverticula.