Myths and facts about diverticular disease

There are a lot of popular myths about diverticular disease – namely diverticulosis and diverticulitis, reports Health Cleveland Clinic.

Patients believe they can’t eat nuts or seeds, one of the most common myths. Below, the most common myths are dispelled.

Myth 1: Diverticular disease always requires treatment

Fact: Patients often confuse the related conditions diverticulosis and diverticulitis.

Diverticulosis generally needs no treatment, while diverticulitis is a more serious condition that may require surgery.

Diverticulosis refers to small pockets that protrude through weak muscle layers in the intestinal wall. Sixty percent of people have them by age 60. Up to eighty percent of people have them by age 80.

Diverticulosis is like having freckles: It’s only a problem if those freckles turn into a mole. We don’t operate, ever, on diverticulosis.

Diverticulitis occurs when one or more of those pockets are blocked by waste and inflammation or an infection occurs, or when pockets rupture and bacteria that are normally in your stool get outside of the intestines and into the surrounding abdominal area.

When this happens, a variety of complications can arise:

You may experience pain and/or a fever.

A painful infection of the abdominal cavity, or what we call peritonitis, occurs. Peritonitis is potentially fatal. Also, while it’s very uncommon, it does require immediate treatment.

Not everybody who has diverticulitis needs surgery, but they should see a physician, either in primary care or the emergency room, to get a proper diagnosis.

Myth 2: If you’ve had diverticulosis that developed into diverticulitis in the past, subsequent bouts of diverticulitis are more likely to perforate (and lead to peritonitis)

Fact: Diverticulitis happens in only 10 – 25 percent of those with diverticulosis. Also the great majority, or 75 percent, of those cases are the less serious type – requiring simple outpatient treatment, and perhaps medication.

Usually, if your body could handle diverticulitis the first time, then the next time, it’s going to react just as well.