What is diverticulitis?

A lingering sharp pain in your lower left abdominal area could be a symptom of diverticulitis—an inflammation or infection that occurs in the lining of the colon. In the past, surgery often was performed when a patient had as little as two attacks of diverticulitis, says Suresh Mahajan, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff of Southwest General. Today the condition is usually treated by dietary changes and antibiotics. Below, Dr. Mahajan explains more about diverticulitis:

Q. What are diverticulosis and diverticulitis?
A. It is common for people to develop bulging pouches called diverticula on the lining of their colon—usually the sigmoid colon, located on their left side. If these diverticula become inflamed or infected, the disease is called diverticulitis. If you have sharp lower left abdominal pain that lasts two to three hours, you should be checked for the condition.

Q. How is diverticulitis treated?
A. Although severe or recurring diverticulitis may require surgery, most cases are treated with antibiotics and a change of diet. A high fiber diet is recommended to help prevent future attacks of diverticulitis as well as complications from diviticular disease.

Q. Does diverticulosis always develop into diverticulitis?
A. No. It is believed that the risk of developing a more serious condition is 1 percent over 11 years.

Q. Should people with diverticulosis avoid eating seeds, nuts, and corn?
A. No. Conventional wisdom once suggested that hard-to-digest foods like nuts, seeds, and corn could lodge in the diverticula and cause diverticulitis. Newer research, however, shows that those foods are not associated with an increase in risk for diverticulitis or diverticular bleeding.

Q. How is diverticulitis diagnosed?
A. Diverticulitis is usually discovered with a CT scan. Following a bout of diverticulitis, a colonoscopy is recommended to rule out the presence of colon cancer.

You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Mahajan by calling 440-816-2789. His office is located at Southwest General Health Center, 7255 Old Oak Blvd., Suite C101, in Middleburg Heights.