Diverticular disease affects the colon (the large intestine that removes waste from your body) and is made up of two conditions: diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Diverticulosis occurs when pouches, called diverticula, form in the colon. These diverticula bulge out like weak spots in a tire. Diverticulitis occurs when one or more diverticula become inflamed or infected.
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.
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
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.
Learn more about diverticulosis/diverticulitis with resources from http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/diverticular-disease/Pages/ez.aspx#what.