Dear Dr. Gott: Several months ago, I was diagnosed with diverticulosis. Can you tell me the difference between diverticulosis and diverticulitis? Some days I do well with this problem, and other days are awful. I am trying to eat the right kinds of food, but still some days are bad. Do you have any suggestions on what foods are good for this problem?
Dear Reader: Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches in the lining of the large intestine bulge outward. Each pouch is called a diverticulum, while multiple pouches are known as diverticula. Most people with diverticulosis are symptom-free. Those with symptoms will have cramps and bloating of the lower abdomen. They may complain of constipation.
When diverticula become inflamed, the condition is known as diverticulitis. Pain may be mild or appear suddenly, increasing in intensity in the lower left abdomen. A person may have a fever, chills, vomiting, nausea and experience a change in bowel habits. There may be bleeding from weakened small blood vessels in the diverticulum, colon blockage and infection. Diverticulitis can lead to infection, which can be treated successfully with antibiotics. If the infection worsens, an abscess may form on the colon wall.
Diverticular disease, a blanket term used to describe both diverticulosis and diverticulitis, is likely the result of a low-fiber diet, lack of exercise and obesity. It is often diagnosed when a physician is testing a patient for a completely different ailment. For example, it can be identified during a colonoscopy that a physician may perform to rule out polyps or cancer, through CT (computerized tomography) or abdominal ultrasound.
Treatment for relatively mild cases is with pain medication, oral antibiotics and a high-fiber diet. Fiber will keep stool softer and lower pressure within the colon at the same time. Severe cases may require hospitalization, IV antibiotics and a few days without food to allow the colon time to heal.
For more detailed information on this topic, I suggest you visit the National Digestive Diseases Information website at www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Diverticular Disease.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order made payable to Newsletter and mailed to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title or print an order form off my website at www.AskDrGottMD.com.
Dear Dr. Gott: Could you please tell me what a carcinoid tumor is and what causes them? I was recently diagnosed with some in my stomach.
Dear Reader: Carcinoid tumors are slow-growing tumors that commonly begin in the lungs or digestive tract. Because they are slow growing, they don’t produce symptoms in their early stages. They excrete hormone-like substances. In later stages, flushing of the face and upper chest, cough, hemoptysis, chest pain, wheezing, bowel obstruction, diarrhea and difficulty breathing may occur.
The primary treatment for this condition is surgery, which will be successful as long as the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. Treatment modalities for arresting tumor growth are experimental at this stage but show great promise. Chemotherapy is of little benefit and is not generally indicated.
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