Treating the pain of diverticulitis

You have a monster pain on your right side that comes on suddenly or you have mild pain that fluctuates or gets worse by the day. Your stomach feels tender, you're feverish and nauseated — and you may have diverticulitis.

Treating the pain of diverticulitis

What you should know about diverticulitis

  • Along with the pain, you may have the runs or be constipated and if any of that sounds familiar, you may have diverticulitis.
  • Diverticulitis is an infection of tiny pouches called diverticula that form in the lining of the colon. Diverticulitis can be serious, even life-threatening. So, once you feel unexplained abdominal pain, it's important to act fast and see a doctor.
  • The first thing your doctor will do is determine if your pain is related to diverticular disease. Diverticulitis symptoms can resemble other conditions, such as appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Your doctor will check you for stomach tenderness and will probably give you a blood test to check your white blood cell count, a sign of infection. The doctor may also order a CT scan of your colon.
  • The condition can be chronic so once you have an episode, you are much more likely to have another one. Some experts believe that chronic symptoms may be related to a low-grade inflammation.
  • Factors that increase your risk of infection include age, low-fibre diet, and lack of exercise. Researchers say that they are seeing increasing numbers of younger patients who have diverticular disease as a result of obesity.
  • Many of us develop diverticula pouches after age 40, without even knowing it, probably because the elasticity and strength of the bowel wall change. Weak spots in the colon, particularly near the rectum, are created by increased intestinal wall tension from hard stools and strained bowel movements. Increased pressure in the colon breaks down the walls of the pouches, which leads to infection and pain.

Treating diverticulitis

Treatment really depends on how bad your symptoms are. If your case is mild, antibiotics, rest, and a temporary soft diet usually do the trick. However, a severe infection can require hospitalization, even surgery.

  • Your doctor may prescribe medication for pain and antibiotics. Take them as directed and don't stop just because you feel better.
  • For cramps and stomach pain, use a heating pad, set on low, on your stomach.
  • Relax and try meditation or slow, deep breathing.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen.
  • You may need surgery only if other treatment is not working.
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