Understanding the Difference Between Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis

When you’re young and healthy, the lining of your digestive tract is smooth and uniform. But as you age — especially if you’re a man — the lining can start to bulge and form little sacs or pockets, a condition known as diverticulosis. Diverticulosis usually affects the lower intestine, also known as the colon. Diverticulosis typically has no symptoms, but if you don’t pay attention to it, you could develop a type of infection in the sacs known as diverticulitis.

Confused? You don’t have to be. 

At South Shore Surgical in Valley Stream, New York, expert physician and general surgeon Ira Klonsky, MD, helps you manage your diverticulosis so it doesn’t progress to diverticulitis. And if you do have diverticulitis, he treats your disease so you can live your life symptom-free.

Why you get diverticulosis

The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy estimates that half of women and men over age 60 and almost anyone over age 80 develops at least one diverticulum and usually multiple diverticula (i.e. diverticulosis). Diverticulosis tends to affect women and men in the Western world, and is virtually unknown in Asia and Africa, where people eat high-fiber foods.

If your diet is low in fiber, you’re more at risk for diverticulosis. Fiber helps your colon move digested food through your bowels. Low-fiber diets lead to constipation, which cause you to strain while defecating, putting extra pressure on your colon.

Most of the time, you don’t have any symptoms from diverticulosis. However, if you have stomach cramps, constipation, or bloating, these could be signs that you have diverticulosis. Your doctor usually finds diverticulosis when conducting an exam — such as a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or X-ray — for other conditions, including colon-cancer screening.

How to manage diverticulosis

Once your colon’s developed one or more diverticulum, it’s there to stay. When you have diverticulosis, your best course of action is adding more fiber to your diet to avoid complications such as an infection (diverticulitis). Dr. Klonsky may recommend:

If you have diverticulosis, being aware of gut health is more important than ever to avoid developing diverticulitis. If you have symptoms from diverticulosis, Dr. Klonsky may prescribe mesalazine or another mediation to keep you comfortable and reduce inflammation.

What happens if you have diverticulitis

Diverticulitis — or an infection in the diverticula — is a serious complication of diverticulosis. The infected diverticula can burst and spread the infection to other parts of your body. The infected diverticula can also cause an abdominal abscess, which your doctor must drain. You could also develop a potentially life-threatening hole in your abdomen or gut (perforation), or even a dangerous hemorrhage.

If Dr. Klonsky suspects that you have diverticulitis, he first verifies the diagnosis through blood tests and imaging studies. He bases your treatment on the degree and severity of your infection and inflammation. Potential therapies include:

The two main types of surgery are primary bowel resection and bowel resection with colostomy. Whenever possible, Dr. Klonsky opts for minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. However, if you have a high degree of inflammation or severe disease, he treats your diverticulitis with open (traditional) surgery.

In a primary bowel resection, he removes diseased diverticula and other inflamed, infected portions of your colon while leaving your intestines intact. You should be able to have normal bowel movements after your surgery. 

If you’re highly inflamed and have advanced disease, Dr. Klonsky may need to perform a bowel resection with colostomy. He creates a stoma, or an opening, in your abdominal wall, to which you attach a colostomy bag for waste collection. Once your inflammation resolves, he may be able to close the stoma and reconnect your bowel to your rectum so you can defecate normally.

If you have diverticulosis, contact us today to find out how to manage your condition so you don’t develop diverticulitis. Call our friendly office staff or use the online request form. 

To find out if you have diverticulitis, call our friendly office staff or use the online request form.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Top Signs You May Have a Hernia

You may have heard the word “hernia” before, but what is it exactly, and could you have one? Take a moment to learn more about this common condition and how to recognize the symptoms.

How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work?

Looking for an effective medical treatment that doesn’t require surgery or come with lengthy downtimes? Hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses the power of pure oxygen to treat numerous health conditions, from anemia to cancer. Here’s how.

Fiber, Fiber, Fiber: What Foods Help Your Anal Health

No one likes to think too much about what’s going on “down behind” until there’s a problem. Anal issues can make life miserable, but often the fix can be as simple as a diet change. Find out how fiber can change your life for the better.

5 Tips for Avoiding Discomfort After Gallbladder Removal

Having your gallbladder removed offers immediate relief from uncomfortable symptoms, like back pain. Your digestive issues can linger for a short period, however. Learn how to manage them as your body adjusts to not having a gallbladder.