Diverticular disease has two separate manifestations. The subtle signs and symptoms of diverticulosis are important to understand because many people who have this problem are asymptomatic, but often this diverticular disease can lead to a more serious condition known as diverticulitis. In diverticulosis, there are diverticula present, but they do not cause any symptoms. In diverticulitis, which will be discussed in detail, the diverticula are inflamed which can lead to other serious consequences for the patient (Gramse, 1983). Diverticulitis is a bugling protrusion of a mucous membrane through the wall of the colon (Marrs, 2006). These saclike or pouch protrusions have the potential to cause inflammation, obstruction, infection, and hemorrhage (Gramse, 1983). If left untreated, diverticulitis can be fatal from the above mentioned complications. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the sometimes subtle signs and symptoms of diverticulitis. Many people who experience this disorder are asymptomatic and it is important to catch the disorder before fatal complications have the opportunity to arise.
The cause of diverticulitis is a weakened area somewhere in the colon wall. With accompanying pressure in the lumen, a protrusion results in the areas of weakness in the colon wall. There are different factors that can contribute to increased pressure within the lumen. Low dietary fiber intake, increased peristaltic contractions, and individual colon structure all are factors that can influence pressure on the lumen (Marrs, 2006).
Diverticulitis is one of the most common medical conditions that occur in the United States. Diverticulitis occurs most often in men over the age of 40. It is estimated that approximately one-third of all Americans develop diverticulitis by the age of 60. It is also estimated that approximately two-thirds of all Americans will develop diverticulitis by the age of 85 (Unknown, 2010). Diverticulitis occurs more often in well developed areas, such as the United States, Europe, and Australia (Marrs, 2006). In underdeveloped nations where the diet contains more natural bulk and fiber, diverticulitis is less common. Since diverticulitis is most prevalent in the Western world, where food processing removes a lot of the roughage from food, there are many theories surrounding dietary intake as the main cause of the disorder (Unknown, 2010).
As previously mentioned, diet is a major contributing factor in the development of diverticulitis. The food that is commonly eaten in the Western world lacks roughage. This lack of roughage reduces the fecal residue, contributes to narrowing of the bowel lumen, which ultimately leads to an increase in pressure during defecation. This increased pressure that occurs, both intraabdominally and intraluminally, results in weakened areas of the gastrointestinal wall, especially where the blood vessels enter. An accumulation of undigested foods and bacteria form in the area of weakened areas and form a hard saclike protrusion (Unknown, 2010). Diverticula can vary in their size. It is possible that the diverticula occur singularly, but it is more common that there are multiple different areas of protrusion. The average size of single diverticula is 5-10 millimeters in diameter. There have been reports, however, of diverticula being larger than 20 millimeters in diameter (Marrs, 2006). The diverticula that are formed cuts off the blood supply to the already thinning walls of the colon. This decreased blood supply to the area increases the probability of the area being attacked by bacteria. Due to this, inflammation generally occurs. This inflammation has the potential to cause perforation, abscess, peritonitis, obstruction, or even hemorrhage (Unknown, 2010).
As previously mentioned, diverticulosis, which can lead to diverticulitis, generally does not produce any distinguishable signs or symptoms. On the other hand, diverticulitis does produce symptoms that range from mild...
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