WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- Diverticulosis (deye-ver-tik-u-LOH-sis) occurs when small pouches, called diverticula, bulge outward through weak spots in the large bowel (colon). The pouches form when pressure builds up inside the colon. Constipation (dry, hard stools), due to a low fiber diet, is a common cause of increased pressure in the colon. The colon is the long tube that connects the small bowel with the anus (rear end). The colon absorbs water from digested foods and turns the digested food into stool. It stores the stool until it can be passed out through your anus.
- Feces (stool) or food that is not broken down can get trapped in the diverticula. This can cause abdominal (stomach) pain, bleeding, and other problems, such as diverticulitis (infected and swollen diverticula). A barium enema or colonoscopy may be done to diagnose diverticulosis. You may also have blood and stool tests. Treatment may include a high fiber diet, pain medicines, fiber or vitamin supplements, or surgery. With treatment, such as a high fiber diet, your symptoms may be relieved and serious problems, such as diverticulitis, may be prevented.
You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
Treatment for diverticulosis may cause unpleasant side effects. Some medicines may cause flushing, sleeping problems, headache, blurred vision, drowsiness, constipation, or dry mouth. There are also risks when having surgery, such as infection or bleeding. If diverticulosis is not treated, the blood vessels in the diverticula may bleed or burst. Your diverticula may become infected and swollen, which is called diverticulitis. If infected diverticula burst, they may allow bowel contents to leak into the abdomen causing peritonitis. Peritonitis is inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the abdomen. Ask your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your disease, medicine, or care.
WHILE YOU ARE HERE:
You have the right to understand your health condition in words that you know. You should be told what tests, treatments, or procedures may be done to treat your condition. Your doctor should also tell you about the risks and benefits of each treatment. You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives caregivers permission to do certain tests, treatments, or procedures. If you are unable to give your consent, someone who has permission can sign this form for you. A consent form is a legal piece of paper that tells exactly what will be done to you. Before giving your consent, make sure all your questions have been answered so that you understand what may happen.
You may need blood taken for tests. The blood can be taken from a blood vessel in your hand, arm, or the bend in your elbow. It is tested to see how your body is doing. It can give your caregivers more information about your health condition. You may need to have blood drawn more than once.
An IV (intravenous) is a tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
You may have one or more of the following:
- Anticholinergics or antispasmodics: These medicines treat abdominal spasms or cramps by slowing down the activity of your stomach and intestines. Spasms are caused by muscles that tighten and squeeze and may cause pain.
- Fiber or vitamin supplements: Caregivers may give you fiber or vitamins to make sure you are getting enough nutrition. You may be given vitamin B12 through your vein (IV) if your colon cannot absorb this vitamin properly.
- Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain. Medicine may be given regularly, or may only be given if you ask caregivers for it. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease enough for you to feel better. Do not wait until the pain is very bad to ask for your pain medicine. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it. Ask your caregiver for help getting out of bed if you feel tired or dizzy.
- Stool softeners: You may be given stool softeners to soften your bowel movements, making them easier to pass.
You may need one or more of the following tests:
- Barium enema: A barium enema is an x-ray of the colon. A tube is put into your anus, and a liquid called barium is put through the tube. Barium is used so that caregivers can see your colon better on the x-ray film.
- Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is a test that is done to look at your colon. A tube with a light on the end will be put into your anus, and then moved forward into your colon.
Surgery may be needed if you have a lot of bleeding or frequent, painful attacks of diverticulosis. Diverticula or bleeding arteries (blood vessels) may be repaired by surgery. In some cases, you may need a blood transfusion if a burst blood vessel in your diverticula bleeds too much.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.