From Florida Hospital - Apopka
For most people, stomach cramps or constipation cause temporary unpleasantness. For 1 in 10 adults over 40, and nearly half of all Americans over 60, these can be signs of something more serious.
About 65 percent of Americans develop weak spots, or bulges called diverticula, on their colons by age 85, according to the National Institutes of Health. For some,the pouches become inflamed, causing pain or other problems, a condition called diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis can become life-threatening if complications such as infections or leakage into the abdomen occur.
FOLLOWING THE RIGHT ADVICE
Don Rose, a Clermont accountant, endured diverticulitis for years. He describes the pain in his lower left abdomen as “constant and deliberate.” As attacks became more frequent, he tried various medication and diet changes to no avail.
“Over time it worsened,” says Don. “I spoke to people who held off on surgery and ended up having a rupture in their abdomen.” When his doctor suggested surgery, he listened.
WHAT CAUSES IT
“Low-fiber diets are believed to be the cause,” explains Sergio Larach, MD, colorectal surgeon with Florida Hospital Orlando, who performed Don’s surgery. “These lead to constipation, creating pressure in the colon.
Hardened stools mean muscles strain more to move them and extra pressure makes weak spots in the colon bulge out, creating diverticula.”
Consuming foods rich in fiber — fruits, vegetables and whole grains — helps prevent diverticulitis. Fiber softens stools and makes them easier to pass through the colon.
“The disease is common in the US and England, where low-fiber diets are common. It’s rare in countries in Asia and Africa, where people eat high-fiber, vegetable diets,” says Dr. Larach.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE
If you’ve experienced recurrent diverticulitis or are at risk of complications, your physician may recommend surgery — usually done laparoscopically — to remove the diseased part of the colon (colectomy).
As for Don, he is now diverticulitis-free and back to enjoying the beach and shows with his wife and exercising at the gym.