For the most part, Diverticulosis is a harmless, asymptomatic condition. However, when the pouches (Diverticula) in your colon become inflamed, the condition advances to Diverticulitis. While most acute cases of Diverticulitis, although painful, are not a long-term health concern, there are complications that can make the condition much more serious. One serious Diverticulitis complication is developing a perforation, or tear, in the colon.
What Causes Perforated Diverticulitis?
A colonic perforation can occur during an acute Diverticulitis flare. Diverticulitis itself can cause very small tears un the colon walls. When these tears grow larger, it becomes a more significant problem. Untreated diverticulitis can cause colonic perforation and may allow more inflammation and pressure to build in the colon walls.
Another potential cause of Perforated Diverticulitis is a complication of recent colon surgery called an anastomotic leakage. Anastomotic leaks occur when an area of the colon wall that has been surgically joined together develops a leak.
What are the symptoms of Perforated Diverticulitis?
Perforated Diverticulitis symptoms are similar to an acute Diverticulitis attack, only worse. Additional symptoms include an indication of sepsis, which is a severe bodily infection. Symptoms of perforated Diverticulitis are listed below:
- Increased abdominal pain/tenderness
- Rapid pulse
- Rapid breathing
- Decreased urination
- Difficulty breathing
- Very low body temperature
If your Diverticulitis symptoms worsen or you experience 3 or more of the above symptoms at once, contact your doctor.
How is perforated Diverticulitis treated?
There are two types of perforated Diverticulitis: contained and free. Contained perforation occurs when your colon has not leaked into the abdominal cavity. In this case, a small needle or catheter can be used to drain the fluid and antibiotics will be administered. In most cases, the tear will heal itself once the infection has subsided.
A free perforation occurs when the contents of the colon have entered the abdominal cavity. In this case, surgery is required, and the damaged part of the colon will likely be removed.
For the most part, bouts of Diverticulitis will come and go without serious complications. However, these severe cases can happen. If you know you have Diverticulosis, be aware of indicators that your condition has worsened beyond an acute attack and be sure to seek medical help right away.
For more information on how to manage a diverticulitis flare and improve your diet to deal with your diverticulitis, download our Diverticulitis Nutrition Guide.