The colon has tiny holes, through which blood vessels pass. If they become larger, they create diverticula. Professor Silvio Danese, Supervisor of the Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases Center at Humanitas, spoke about diverticula, diverticulitis and the related diseases, in an interview for Rai3’s program, “Tutta Salute”.
“We don’t know why diverticula shows up. Different pressure levels inside the intestine favor – especially due to aging – create these little sacks”, Professor Danese explained.
The presence of diverticula (also called diverticulosis) is just an alteration of the body, characterized by the presence of little sacks that present no symptoms and give no problems to patients.
This condition becomes a disease when the first symptoms appear. This happens in 1/3 of the patients.
Diverticulitis, on the contrary, is an inflammation that only affects 2-3% of the patients.

How can you tell apart irritable colon and diverticulitis?

“The colon is quite easy to understand. Typical symptoms are bloating, stomach ache and changes in bowel regularity. Those who suffer from diverticulitis mainly lament pains in the left side, while irritable bowel’s pain is well spread and mainly located in the middle of the bowel. However, you should go to a gastroenterologist in order to get the right diagnosis”, Prof. Danese points out.

Diverticulitis’s risk factors

“Like we said earlier, a risk factor for diverticulosis – and thus the development of diverticula – is aging. Other risk factors are a fiber-poor diet, an excessive consumption of meat or fat foods, the intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (that may provoke an inflammation), as well as obesity and a sedentary lifestyle”, the Professor explains.

Diagnosis and treatment

“Diverticula is seldom noticed, for instance during screening colonoscopies after the age of 50 years old. Echography, abdominal CT and virtual colonoscopy are useful tests to get a diagnosis.
Patients with diverticulosis should first of all follow a fiber-rich diet, that is eating many fruit and vegetables. There are no medications to prevent the risk of diverticulitis, but antibiotics that get released in the intestine may cure the symptoms. If there are complications, surgery may be necessary”, Professor Danese explains.