Diverticulitis – another cause of rectal bleeding
In developing the disease known as diverticulitis certain changes must first occur in the colon (large intestine). For reasons not too clear to medical scientists, pouches form in the wall of the colon. These pouches are known as diverticula and they give rise to the condition known as diverticulosis. In the main, diverticulosis occurs as a symptomless condition. On other hand, diverticulosis may present with symptoms such as abdominal pain, and rectal bleeding. Both these symptoms may be due to inflammation or infection of the pouches. When the pouches or diverticula become inflamed, the condition becomes known as diverticulitis.
Even though the reason why these pouches form on the wall of the colon is not completely known, it is believed that they form as a result of pressure on the wall of the colon. There is usually a pressure build up on the wall of the colon when there are hard stools in the colon. This is as a result of eating food without fibre. Commonly, animal based foods do not have fibre and together with the likely dehydration in the body, the stools become hardened as more water is drawn from them in the colon. To push this kind of stools towards the anus, the pressure in the colon has to be increased. This pressure exerted on a weak portion of the colon may cause a protrusion in the wall of the colon. These diverticula are commonly seen in the colon, but they have been found in other sections of the gastrointestinal tract. Diverticula are more frequently found in the elderly and if they are not causing any further harm, they should be left untreated. However, when symptoms begin to appear something has to be done.
Symptoms of diverticulitis
Like I mentioned earlier, diverticulosis will transform to diverticulitis if the pouches have become infected or inflamed.
The most frequently encountered symptom is left sided lower abdominal pain. This pain, which may be severe, could last for a few hours or run into weeks when the condition is becoming chronic.
Other symptoms are bloating and gas, constipation, nausea and vomiting and fever. From all indications, diverticulitis may be viewed as a fall out from constipation. Diarrhea may be associated with diverticulitis but it is not very common.
Diverticulitis can give rise to intestinal obstruction or form a pocket of abscess in the wall of the colon. Another complication of diverticulitis is the formation of a fistula. This is an opening through the wall of the intestine connecting the inside of the colon with another nearby structure, the bladder, for example. The inflamed pouch may rupture, spilling its contents into the peritoneum. This gives rise to peritonitis, inflammation of the peritoneum which is accompanied by severe pain, tenderness and swelling of the abdomen. This is a medical emergency, which requires immediate attention.
One major reason why I have been writing on diseases that cause rectal bleeding is to get everybody to know about such diseases and how to prevent them. In considering these diseases therefore, it also helps to identify those at risk so that such individuals will pay attention and make every effort to prevent them.
Age: Diverticulitis is more frequently seen in the elderly. Obviously, as one gets older, the cells and the tissues begin to weaken. In such a disease as this, which affects the weak portions of the colon, it could be expected that the prevalence will be higher.
Obesity: The more obese an individual is, the more he or she becomes more susceptible to various kinds of diseases. It is no wonder that obese persons may be found with diverticulitis more than a normal sized individual.
Diet high in animal fat and low in fibre: Consumption of foods that are high in animal fat and low in fibre increase the risk of diverticulitis. Animal fats and protein are more likely to predispose to diverticulitis and constipation with abdominal pain and bleeding from the anus.
Other risk factors for diverticulitis include medicines like the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a sedentary lifestyle and cigarette smoking.
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