Diverticular disease, often referred to as diverticulosis, is a condition in which the colon develops small pouches - called diverticula - along the colon wall. The condition can also cause diverticulitis, which occurs when the small pouches become inflamed or infected, but this doesn’t always occur.
This is important to know because, oftentimes, diverticulosis is not diagnosed until it develops into diverticulitis, because diverticulosis does not cause any symptoms, while diverticulitis causes severe abdominal pain and other unpleasant symptoms.
Physicians aren’t sure exactly what causes diverticulosis, but there are some key risk factors of diverticulosis to be aware of.
Diverticular Disease Risk Factors
Fiber: For many years, experts believed that a low fiber diet could lead to diverticulitis. However, there is some information suggesting that that might not be the case. In order to be sure about your fiber intake, speak with your doctor about how much fiber you ought to include in your diet.
Genetic Factors: Experts are still debating the role that genes play in the development of diverticulosis, but some studies have shown links that certain genes do in fact play a part in the development of diverticulosis. At the same time, certain syndromes also elevate the risk of developing diverticulosis, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Other Factors: Some studies have found links between diverticular disease and other environmental factors such as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and certain medications— including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), opiates, and steroids.
Bacteria: Diverticulosis may begin when bacteria or stool is caught in a pouch in your colon. A decrease in the healthy bacteria of your colon and increase in harmful bacteria may also be the cause of diverticulitis.
As for diverticulosis developing into diverticulitis, it is more likely that it occurs in low fiber diets and in those who consume a lot of red meats. These types of diets are most often found in developed countries such as the U.S. In fact, people in countries where vegetable-rich, high fiber diets are the norm rarely develop diverticulitis.
If you have diverticulosis or diverticulitis, then you should see a specialist at once, as the condition is serious and most likely requires medical attention and possibly even surgery. To learn more about diverticulitis, you can visit our symptoms and conditions page, or you can contact us to book an appointment with one of our colorectal specialists.