Painful Complications of Diverticulitis

Young man with stomach pain indigestion

Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches appear in the lining of the large intestine, then become infected and inflamed. Doctors are not completely certain what causes this painful condition, but evidence strongly suggests it is connected to poor diet and poor bowel habits.  Acute attacks of diverticulitis may be extremely painful, but even worse, this condition may lead to serious complications. Roughly 25% of diverticulitis patients experience complications, some of the more common of which may include:

  • Abscess – This occurs when the infected area develops a pus-filled sac. A small abscess may go away with nothing more than antibiotics, but larger abscesses frequently require the insertion of a tube to drain the pus.

  • Bowel Obstruction – Infections may leave behind scarring in the small intestine or colon, which may ultimately create a blockage.

  • Fistula – An abnormal passageway may form, either between sections of the intestines or between the bowel and the bladder. This condition is more common in men, though women are not exempt. If a fistula develops, infection may spread from the infected diverticulum to the attached organ.

  • Peritonitis – The infection present with diverticulitis is usually confined to a specific pouch, or diverticulum. If that pouch begins to leak, the infection may spread throughout the intestine and/or peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen. This life-threatening condition is a medical emergency and requires immediate surgery.

A regular acute attack of diverticulitis is likely to cause so much pain that it is nearly impossible to ignore. Antibiotics and painkillers are usually prescribed for even the most mild attacks to prevent further complications and to help the patient cope with the pain. Additional symptoms may indicate the presence of a complication. Such symptoms may include:

  • Fever over 100* Fahrenheit (or 38* Celsius)

  • Severe or continuously worsening abdominal pain

  • Inability to tolerate fluids

  • Abnormally low blood pressure

If you experience any of the above symptoms with a diagnosis of diverticulitis, seek medical assistance immediately.

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