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When It’s More Than Just Constipation…
The pressure of everyday living is enough to give an average person his/her fair share of constipation. Hectic lives often mean rushed, unplanned, and irregular meals with no exercise. Thus, it is estimated that about 20% of the US population experiences frequent and/or severe constipation.
Aside from the pain and discomfort, frequent bouts of constipation can also lead to bigger problems. One common complication of frequent constipation is having diverticula (plural of diverticulus) in your colon.
During constipation, the muscles strain hard to move the stool which leads to increased pressure in your intestines. Pretty much like your car’s tires, the excess pressure can cause weak spots in your intestines to bulge out and form pouches or diverticula in your colon.
The Complications of Constipation
The state where you have diverticula in your colon is called diverticulosis. People with diverticulosis do not normally experience pain or discomfort and so are usually unaware of their situation.
Occasionally though, some people with diverticulosis experience bloating, mild cramps, and constipation. However, these symptoms are also experienced by those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and should not be the sole basis for diagnosis.
Oftentimes, one becomes aware that he/she has diverticulosis only when infection or inflammation of the diverticula occurs. Having infected or inflamed diverticula is called diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is often characterized by abdominal pain. The lower left side of your abdominal area may also feel tender. When there is infection, diverticulitis is usually accompanied by fever, chills, vomiting, nausea, cramping, and even constipation.
Complicating Constipation Complications
To complicate matters, diverticulitis as a constipation complication can even lead to more complications.
Bleeding due to diverticulitis is not very common. It is believed that bleeding is caused by blood vessels in the diverticulum that have grown too weak and finally bursts. You may find blood with your stool when this happens although it may stop by itself without treatment.
If the bleeding persists or becomes severe however, you should consult your doctor as surgery may be required.
Other complications of diverticulitis can include abscess and pus in the colon due to infection. Small holes called perforations can also develop and may cause the pus to leak out to the abdominal area. In such cases, an immediate surgery may be necessary.
For most cases of diverticulitis however, a high-fiber diet is normally recommended for treatment and relief. Patients may be required to keep a food diary to record their food intake.
Although some physicians recommend staying away from particular foods for fear that these may lodge in the diverticula and block or irritate them, there is no scientific research to support this belief.