Diverticula are small pockets that develop in the walls of our intestinal tract. They are usually benign. But food material can get lodged in them, leading to inflammation and infection. Diverticula develop in all of us as we age, but low fiber diets, constipation, and smoking seem to make it worse. A study released last week, to the dismay of your average Texan, also implicates the regular intake of red meat.
Signs and symptoms: Fever and crampy abdominal pain are common signs of infection. Diarrhea may also occur.
What to do: See your doctor to rule out the many other causes of abdominal pain. A CT scan can be diagnostic. Antibiotics usually control the problem. If it persists, or an abscess develops, surgery may be required. Prevention means a high fiber diet, aggressively controlling constipation, and limiting red meat in your diet. Avoidance of seeds in the diet was once recommended, but data has not proven that to be useful.
Thought for the day: Changing your meat from red to white is one way to avoid diverticulitis.
What’s Going Around is contributed by family practice doctor Kyle Scarborough, M.D. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.