What should I expect if I have been diagnosed with diverticular disease?

If you’ve been told you have diverticulosis, this is usually not cause for concern. This condition is very common and increases with age. It is present in about 50% of people over age 60 and in almost everyone over age 80. You likely won’t even have symptoms if you have diverticulosis. If you have a mild case of diverticulosis, it may go away on its own without treatment.

Up to 30% of people with diverticulosis do develop diverticulitis. Between 5% and 15% will develop rectal bleeding.

Most people who have diverticulitis will recover with about a seven to 10-day course of antibiotics and rest. Severe complication of diverticulitis occur in about the following percent of people: perforation of the colon (1% to 2% of patients), obstruction (rare), fistula (14%) or abscess (30%).

The best self-treatment is to eat a high-fiber diet (one filled with fruits and vegetables, cereals and whole grains, nuts, beans and legumes. Also, drink more fluids (half your body weight in ounces each day) and exercise (helps speed waste through your colon).

What are the dangers of diverticulitis? Is diverticulitis a life-threatening condition?

Diverticulitis can be a serious, and even a potentially life-threatening complication. Health problems that can arise from diverticulitis include:

  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Abscesses and fistulas.
  • Obstructions and strictures.
  • Perforation, leading to peritonitis.

(These health problems are more fully explained earlier in this article.)

If I’ve had one bout of diverticulitis, how likely am I to have a repeat bout?

If you’ve had a previous episode of diverticulitis, you have up to about a 20% chance of having a repeat episode. However, fewer than 6% of patients will develop complicated disease or need emergency surgery.

Can diverticulitis be cured?

Diverticulitis can be treated and be healed with antibiotics. Surgery may be needed if you develop complications or if other treatment methods fail and your diverticulitis is severe. However, diverticulitis is generally considered to be a lifelong condition.

Can I still get diverticulitis if I’ve had the affected part of my colon removed?

If the affected area of your colon is removed, another surgery is usually not needed. The most common location for diverticulitis is the sigmoid colon, which is the S-shaped near end portion of your colon. Although this is the most common location, it’s possible for diverticula to form in other areas of your colon. Because each person is different, be sure to ask your healthcare provider, surgeon, or colon specialist about your risk for return appearance of diverticulitis.

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