Also known as diverticulitis or diverticular disease, diverticulosis is a condition that occurs when pouches develop in the walls of the colon. While these pouches are generally small, ranging from 5 to 10 millimeters, they can gradually grow in size. It is important to note that, in the case of diverticulosis, inflammation does not take place within the pouches. However, when it does, the disease is referred to as diverticulitis. Another noteworthy aspect is that diverticulosis is asymptomatic. When the patient begins experiencing distressing symptoms, the condition is usually called diverticular disease.
Some of the most common symptoms of diverticulitis and diverticular disease include:
- abdominal pain
- abdominal cramps, which feel more intense on the left side
- chills or fever
People over the age of 40 are at the highest risk of developing diverticulosis. Nevertheless, the majority of cases (74%) take place in individuals over the age of 80 in the U.S. According to statistics, diverticulosis eventually turns into diverticular disease in 1 out of 4 patients. Some of the risk factors for this disease are a low-fiber diet, aging, smoking, extreme weight loss, genetic predisposition, a sedentary lifestyle, chronic constipation, the use of anti-inflammatory medication, as well as connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome.
While the causes of the disease are not completely clear to medical professionals at the moment, diverticulosis is believed to develop as a result of high pressure inside the colon. High pressure may affect the weak areas of the colon over time, which promotes enlargement. The most serious complications of diverticulosis are:
- bowel obstruction, which refers to a blockage in the colon as a result of scarring
- peritonitis, the inflammation of the abdominal lining, which may take place if stool enters a hole in a diverticulum (pouch)
- fistulas (openings) between the colon and a nearby organ such as another segment of the large intestine, the bladder, the urethra, or the vagina
- abdominal abscesses, which may happen if infected fluid accumulates in a diverticulum
- bleeding into the colon and rectum
Roughly 25% of people who suffer from diverticulosis experience complications.
While cancer is not a complication that can ensue as a result of diverticulosis, a link between the condition and peritoneal mesothelioma has been found by multiple studies. A 1981 research analyzes the case of a patient struggling with peritoneal mesothelioma and severe diverticulitis, which was believed to be the consequence of the former. Since mesothelioma entails the inflammation of the mesothelium, it is indeed very likely that this cancer had contributed to the acuteness of diverticulitis. Mild diverticular disease has also been discovered in a peritoneal mesothelioma patient during a 2008 medical study, whereas a 2000 research found peritoneal mesothelioma co-occurring with sigma diverticulitis in a 57-year-old man.
It is not impossible for diverticulitis or diverticular disease to precede peritoneal mesothelioma either, since both imply severe inflammation of the large intestine, which is close to the mesothelium. Furthermore, these benign diseases might initially be diagnosed in someone who, in reality, suffers from peritoneal mesothelioma, as misdiagnosis is very frequent among victims of asbestos exposure. Due to the similar symptoms both diverticulitis/diverticular disease and peritoneal mesothelioma are associated with, mistaking the latter for the former is very easy. For this reason, we strongly encourage you to seek at least a second opinion if you have a history of asbestos exposure and experience alarming symptoms.