Aging and heredity are primary factors in the development of diverticulosis and diverticulitis, but diet also plays a role. Eating a diet low in fiber and high in refined foods can greatly increase your risk. Indeed, in Western societies, an estimated 10% of people over 40 eventually develop diverticulosis; the figure reaches 50% in people over 60. Diverticulitis will occur in about 10%-25% of those with diverticulosis.
Though it has not been proven, it is thought that if you are often constipated and usually strain when you have a bowel movement, you may create enough pressure in the intestinal walls to weaken them and begin the development of diverticular pouches. If the diverticula then become filled with fecal material or with undigested food, they are vulnerable to bacterial infection and may result in diverticulitis.
If you think you have either diverticulosis or diverticulitis, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can perform tests to diagnose the conditions including:
- Barium enema , a test in which the colon is filled with barium before an X-ray is taken to show an outline of the inside of the intestines.
- Colonoscopy , a test in which a flexible lighted tube is used to examine the inside of your intestines.
If you have an acute case of diverticulitis, a barium enema and colonoscopy can injure your intestine. Instead, your doctor may recommend a CT scan, which can help confirm the diagnosis of diverticulitis.
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