Diagnosing Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is an extremely painful condition that develops when small pockets form in the intestine and become inflamed and infected. These pouches may form in any portion of the intestine, but most commonly form in the distal portion of the large intestine known as the colon. Inflammation and/or infection of these pouches may cause nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal tenderness, constipation, diarrhea, and constant, severe abdominal pain, most often – but not exclusively – occurring in the lower left section of the abdomen. Symptoms of diverticulitis may closely resemble symptoms of appendicitis, and vice versa, so it is extremely important to seek medical attention and receive a proper diagnosis.

Diverticulitis is usually noticed and diagnosed while the patient is suffering an acute attack, as this is when the pain is likely to prompt a patient to seek medical attention. Since abdominal pain may be indicative of a wide variety of conditions, your doctor is likely to be very thorough in examining you. A thorough physical examination will likely be the first step in diagnosing diverticulitis. Women may also have a pelvic exam performed to rule out reproductive conditions as the cause of abdominal pain.

Once the physical examination is complete, your doctor may order additional tests. These tests may include:

  • Urine tests

  • Blood tests

  • Pregnancy tests for women

  • Liver function tests

  • Stool test, though this test may not be performed on patients with constipation

  • CT Scan – This is an imaging test which may identify inflamed pouches in the large intestine, making it the most definitive test for diagnosing diverticulitis. These scans may also help determine the severity of diverticulitis and be a useful tool for determining the best course of treatment.

Mild diverticulitis may be treated at home. Oral antibiotics and painkillers may be prescribed, though some doctors may simply recommend the use of over-the-counter painkillers. While suffering an acute diverticulitis attack, a patient may wish to observe a liquid diet to make digestion easier until the pain subsides. A severe attack or diverticulitis accompanied by other health conditions may require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. If an abscess has formed, a tube may need to be inserted to drain fluid from the area. In extreme cases, cases of patients with recurrent episodes of diverticulitis, or cases of serious complications, surgery may be needed.

Diverticulitis may lead to serious complications, and the symptoms may easily indicate another condition. It is important to seek medical attention during a diverticulitis flare-up and receive proper treatment every time.


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