My mom is 65. I heard that she is at increased risk of developing diverticular disease. Is this true?
The risk for symptomatic diverticular disease is negligible for 35 year olds or younger. However, at age 55 the risk increases by a factor of 10 and at 75 years the risk increases to 40%. 50% of Canadians over the age of 80 years develop diverticular disease. At present, there are no known risk factors other than advanced age.
What is diverticular bleeding?
Bleeding occurs less often than diverticulitis and is not related to episodes of diverticulitis. Often patients do not have symptoms before bleeding occurs. There may be fresh red blood or altered darker blood. Pain is not frequent but cramps can occur. All patients with bleeding need to be investigated to rule out other causes of bleeding. Patients with major bleeding or those who feel light-headed should go to the emergency department. Bleeding often stops on its own but still should be investigated. Most patients do not have further bleeding but in some it may recur. Patients with, recurrent episodes often require surgery.
What is diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is an infection in the diverticulum. This complication occurs in a few patients with diverticulosis. Men and women are affected equally. The resulting infection can be mild, leading only to abdominal pain; or severe, with diffuse infection or sometimes the development of an abscess (a pocket of pus). There is usually fever and an elevated white cell count in the blood. With healing there can be scarring, leading to bowel narrowing and obstruction. Fortunately, severe episodes account for less than one-quarter of all episodes of diverticulitis.
What is the cause of diverticulosis?
It is thought that lack of fibre in the diet may cause small stool size and high pressure contractions inside the colon. The inner lining then is pushed out through weak spots in the muscle, causing a pouch or a sac (diverticulum).