Sometimes the lower intestine develops pouches known as diverticula that bulge outward from the main structure of the organ. When these pouches become infected, inflamed, and painful, this is known as a diverticulitis attack. The condition typically causes pain in the lower left section of the abdomen, and may also cause nausea, cramping, or constipation. It can usually be effectively treated with rest, a liquid diet, and antibiotics, though repeat or severe cases may require surgery to resolve the issue.
A diverticulitis attack typically occurs when the abnormal pouches known as diverticula get infected. This can sometimes happen because small particles of food, such as nuts or seeds, get inside and cause irritation. Due to the infection, it is common for someone suffering an attack to have a fever. Tests will also typically show a high number of white blood cells in the bloodstream as the body tries to fight the invading bacteria.
Patients having a diverticulitis attack may experience a variety of symptoms. The condition can become quite painful, and some patients experience abdominal cramping. Some people may feel nauseous or vomit. Bloating and constipation can be problems for certain patients, while others may experience diarrhea.
The most common tool used to diagnose a diverticulitis attack is a computed tomography, or CT, scan. A scan is done of the patient's abdomen, and the images generated can be used to determine if there is thickening and inflammation of the intestinal walls, and if the patient has diverticula present. This method is typically very accurate and preferable to more invasive procedures such as colonoscopies.
Most attacks of diverticulitis can be treated with some simple steps. Antibiotics are typically administered to treat the infection, and pain medication may also be used if the patient's discomfort is intense. The intestine and bowel need to be allowed to rest and recover, so the patient is typically placed on a liquid diet. Usually the patient will be placed on bed rest for a few days as well.
In certain cases, a diverticulitis attack may require surgery to remove the affected portion of the intestine or colon. If the attack is particularly severe or the infection gets out of control, emergency surgery may be needed. Complications such as an abscess or perforation of the colon may also be reasons to operate. Patients who have repeated attacks may also benefit from a resection of their colon.