Diverticulitis is an inflammation and infection of diverticula, which are pouches found in the colon wall. Complications such as perforations or tears, blockages, bleeding, peritonitis and abscesses can occur even with treatment. If any of these complications should happen, immediate treatment must be started to prevent the complications from getting worse and possibly end up in a life-threatening situation.
Bleeding from diverticula can be mild or it can be severe causing the individual to go into shock. Blood may be noticed in the toilet or in the stool. Mild bleeding usually stops by itself without treatment. Severe bleeding will require treatment and possibly surgery.
If diverticulitis symptoms do not clear up after a few days of antibiotics, surgery may be necessary, especially if an abscess has occurred. An abscess even a small one can swell and destroy tissue. A small abscess can clear up with antibiotics alone, but most abscesses require surgical intervention, especially if they are large.
Infection from diverticula that spreads into the abdominal cavity is called peritonitis. This can be a life-threatening condition. The abdominal cavity must be cleaned and any damaged parts of the colon must be removed. A person with peritonitis, who does not receive surgical help, will die.
Sometimes scarring from infection can cause partial or total blockage of the large intestine in which, the stool cannot move out of the intestine and into the rectum. If the obstruction totally blocks the intestine, surgery is the only option and is an emergency situation. Partial blockage still requires surgery but partial blockage is not an emergency situation and can be scheduled.
It is important that someone with diverticulitis be made aware of what complications could occur so that they are aware of what to watch for, the signs that they may notice that may signal that a complication is occurring. Any time symptoms worsen with an individual with diverticulitis; immediate medical attention must be sought. Complications that do not receive immediate medical attention can easily become life threatening. An individual with diverticulitis must be monitored carefully until complete healing has occurred. This requires medical follow-up during treatment and after treatment has been completed as recurrences of diverticulitis can happen.
It is critical that the individual with diverticulitis be informed about the disease so that they can be an active participant in the treatment process. They must be truthful with the doctor regarding duration of symptoms and severity of symptoms. They must report all symptoms to the doctor so an accurate medical assessment can be made and the correct tests are ordered.
When dealing with complications from diverticulitis it is important for the patient to have as much family or other support as is possible. Going through complications from any illness can be scary and family and friends can be reassuring and assist the individual to get proper care, and rest so that the body can heal.