I’ve decided to put down some of my thoughts on living with diverticular disease.
Diverticular disease is one of those diseases which is unseen from the outside. People who suffer from it can seem perfectly fit and healthy from the outside. But they are often crippled with cramps, bloating and pain on the inside.
I was diagnosed in 2008. After being rushed into hospital literally doubled over in pain. Wexford General very quickly diagnosed the problem. I basically had an abscess about the size of a tennis ball on my colon. My father had something similar back in 2001. Dad was operated on to have it removed and spent months having treatment due to complications. Thanks to the magic of modern science I was able to just have a tube inserted to drain it!
Some of the following is taken from: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/diverticular/
What is diverticular disease?
Diverticular* disease affects the colon. The colon is part of the large intestine that removes waste from your body. Diverticular disease is made up of two conditions: diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Diverticulosis occurs when pouches, called diverticula, form in the colon. These pouches bulge out like weak spots in a tire. Diverticulitis occurs if the pouches become inflamed.
What causes diverticular disease?
Doctors are not sure what causes diverticular disease. Many think a diet low in fiber is the main cause. Fiber is a part of food that your body cannot digest. It is found in many fruits and vegetables. Fiber stays in the colon and absorbs water, which makes bowel movements easier to pass. Diets low in fiber may cause constipation, which occurs when stools are hard and difficult to pass. Constipation causes your muscles to strain when you pass stool. Straining may cause diverticula to form in the colon. If stool or bacteria get caught in the pouches, diverticulitis can occur.
Is diverticular disease serious?
Most people with the disease do not have serious problems, but some people have severe symptoms. Diverticulitis can attack suddenly and cause
- serious infections
- rips in the pouches
- fistula, which is a connection or passage between tissues or organs in the body that normally do not connect
- blockage in your digestive system
- an infection in which the colon ruptures causing stool to empty from the colon into the abdomen
What are the symptoms of diverticular disease?
The symptoms for diverticulosis and diverticulitis are different.
Diverticulosis. Many people don’t have symptoms, but some people have cramping, bloating, and constipation. Some people also have bleeding, inflammation, and fistulas. If you are bleeding, bright red blood will pass through your rectum. The rectum is the end of the colon that connects to the anus. The rectum and anus are part of the gastrointestinal tract, which is the passage that food goes through. Rectal bleeding is usually painless, but it can be dangerous. You should see a doctor right away.
Diverticulitis. People with diverticulitis can have many symptoms. Often pain is felt in the lower part of the abdomen. If you have diverticulitis, you may have fevers, feel sick to your stomach, vomit, or have a change in your bowel habits.
Who gets diverticular disease?
Many people get diverticular disease. Starting at age 40, the chance of getting it increases about every 10 years. About half of people between the ages of 60 and 80 have diverticular disease. Almost everyone over 80 has it.
The biggest issue I always have is managing a diet to keep it at bay. The recommendation is a high fibre diet. But with this you also have to take on lots of water otherwise constipation can kick in and create an attack. I’m not great on the water bit!
As some people who know me well will tell you, there are some foods I just won’t touch. Number one on the list is nuts! You just don’t digest them! Ground nuts and nut oils are OK. I also avoid seeds. Other food items I have discovered give me problems are black and white pudding, tomatoes, fatty meats and spicy foods. I’m not great at avoiding the last two, sometimes you just gotta live! Excess alcohol is also bad, no comment……………….. Stress and tiredness can also be factors in bringing on attacks.
So going back to the start of my story, the disease is not visible on the outside. Sufferers will attempt to live their lives as normal as possible. It simply becomes part of living. But every now and again it does mean shutting down, kicking back and basically relaxing for a few hours or sometimes days to let the body sort itself out.
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