A patient with outpouchings, or diverticula, in their colon is said to have diverticulosis. This condition is likely related to low intake of dietary fiber and increased pressure in the colon needed to expel the small, low-bulk stool. Diverticulosis is common in older adult patients, though it may never produce complications. Many patients with diverticulosis never have any symptoms.
Inflammation of the diverticula, or outpouchings of the colon, is called diverticulitis. If left untreated, this condition can lead to perforation of the intestine and can cause peritonitis.
Patients may report lower, left-sided abdominal pain and cramping. Though uncommon, right-sided abdominal pain may also occur.
Abdominal bloating and distention can occur if there is difficulty passing stool through the affected area of the colon.
Flatulence is a common finding in patients with diverticular disease.
Inflammation and infection of the diverticula seen in diverticulitis can produce a fever.
Diverticula often contain small blood vessels. When these vessels rupture, diverticula will bleed, causing hematochezia, or bleeding from the rectum.
Patients with diverticular disease initially experience chronic constipation and then diarrhea.
If the diverticula become inflamed and rupture, peritonitis or inflammation of the peritoneum can develop. Hypovolemic shock can occur in patients with peritonitis, due to the large fluid shift from the vasculature into the abdominal cavity. Other lab results that may be indicative of an infection related to peritonitis are an elevated C-reactive protein level and leukocytosis with a shift to the left (increased number of immature neutrophils).
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