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The colon is a muscular tube that propels the future waste contents back-and-forth extracting remaining nutritional value – assisted by the beneficial bacteria within – and water from the stool. Lying within the abdomen, the colon receives its blood supply from the mesentery which supports it. Of necessity, arteries need to tunnel their way from the outer aspect of the colon through the layers of the colon to supply the lining of the colon. At these sites, there is the potential for weakness in the muscular wall and, at times, diverticula form as out-pouchings of the colon from within. As diverticulosis, the name of the condition where colon diverticula exist, commonly occurs as one gets older you likely recall that bicycle tires used to have inner tubes. These inner tubes can develop a bulge and it is these “out-pouchings” that diverticula most physically resemble.

Diverticulosis can exist without any symptoms at all or may be complicated by abdominal pain or alterations in bowel habits, particularly a tendency towards constipation.

More serious complications: bleeding and diverticulitis:

Because of the blood supply necessary to maintain the health of the colon lining, small arteries within each diverticula may be torn and diverticular bleeding or hemorrhage may occur. It is typically characterized by a large amount of blood passed rapidly and can be life-threatening. In the event of this emergency situation, you will most likely need to go to emergency room as quickly as possible. This is not suitable for an office visit.

In the same way that blockage of the opening to the appendix may result in the appendicitis, temporary blockage to the opening of one diverticula or more diverticuli may result in diverticulitis. The suffix “-itis” indicates the presence of inflammation within the diverticula. Diverticulitis typically presents with abdominal pain with or without the presence of a fever. It may range from mild diverticulitis – with oral antibiotics – to a more severe condition requiring hospitalization and possibly even emergent surgery. If the pain is mild, office consultation may be appropriate but, if more severe you most likely need to present to an emergency room.

There are some therapeutic strategies, simple things you can do at home, that decrease the chances that diverticulosis will ever be complicated by diverticulitis..

Based in the heart of uptown and the Garden District of New Orleans, Dr. Huilgol (”Dr. Viv”) and the team at NOLA Gastro is committed to working with you to investigate what is going on, so you can make the correct choices for you.

Gut health matters. Let’s work it out together.

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