Diverticular disease and inflammatory bowel disease

Diverticular disease and diverticulitis affect the large intestine (bowel). It is a very common disease in the UK, and women are slightly more affected by the illness than men.

Diverticulae are bulges or pockets that develop in the intestine lining. Whereas most people do not report any symptoms (in this instance, it is called diverticulosis), sometimes it does cause pain. When these diverticulae cause symptoms, it becomes known as diverticular disease.

If diverticular disease becomes more severe, such as when the diverticulae are inflamed, it progresses to diverticulitis.

Symptoms of diverticular disease

Symptoms of diverticular disease include changes in bowel habits, such as suffering from diarrhoea or constipation, a pain in the tummy, usually in the lower left-hand side that heightens during eating or just after a meal, bloating and sometimes blood in your poo.

Diverticulitis causes more worrying symptoms, including a longer-lasting, stronger tummy pain, rectal bleeding, vomiting, blood or mucus in your poo, chills and a fever. If you notice any changes in your body relating to the above symptoms, seek advice from your GP or specialist.

Causes of diverticular disease

The development of diverticulae still largely mystifies medical professionals, but the most probable cause is age. They are more common in people over the age of 40, and the disease is also associated with other diseases including Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Williams Syndrome and polycystic kidney disease. These illnesses all affect bowel tissue.

Carrying extra weight can make somebody more likely to develop diverticular disease, as well as a diet that is lacking in fibre. Other lifestyle factors that can contribute to the onset of diverticular disease are smoking and a lack of exercise.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), also known as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis, are life-altering conditions that involve inflammation of the gut lining.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system but most commonly occurs in the last part of the small intestine or the large intestine. It is mainly diagnosed in young adults under the age of 30, and it can be hard to manage due to its unpredictable nature.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include blood in your stools, unexplained weight loss, tiredness that can verge on exhaustion, stomach pain and diarrhoea. Somebody diagnosed with Crohn’s disease may find that they enjoy sustained periods of good health, before a random ‘flare up’ in which symptoms appear again and cause discomfort and pain.

Causes

Causes of Crohn’s disease vary; it may be due to an issue with your immune system, an imbalance of gut bacteria, a previous stomach bug, or sometimes there can be a heredity factor, i.e. if a close family member suffers with the disease you are more likely to.

If you believe that you have Crohn’s disease, you should to speak to your GP or expert. You will be asked about your lifestyle, including factors such as diet, genetic history of the disease and recent travel.

You may be sent for specialist diagnostic testing such as a colonoscopy, which involves a small, thin camera being inserted into your bottom and upwards to examine the bowel for any inflammation. During this procedure, a small piece of the lining of your bowel may be biopsied for further testing.

Treatment

Treating Crohn’s disease can involve various methods from taking steroid medicines to undergoing surgery, and while there is no cure, symptoms can be eased significantly. One of the main treatment options for Crohn’s disease are immunosuppressants, which are usually administered as an injection, but can also come in the form of daily tablets.

If the case of Crohn’s disease is severe, surgery could be more effective in combatting the condition. Keyhole surgery may be used during a resection, in which the damaged and inflamed bowel section is taken away and the bowel’s healthy sections are stitched together. This procedure is performed under general anaesthetic.

Ulcerative colitis

Affecting the rectum and the colon by causing inflammation, ulcerative colitis is most commonly seen in people aged between 15 and 25.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis include the frequent need to empty the bowels, rectal bleeding, stomach pain and frequent diarrhoea. Similarly to Crohn’s disease, exhaustion and weight loss can be experienced too. The extent that Ulcerative Colitis has on somebody’s life vary from more minor cases, when symptoms are merely an inconvenience, to severe cases in which daily life is affected and there is substantial pain or discomfort.

Causes

Ulcerative Colitis is thought to be caused by someone reacting negatively to the ‘friendly’ bacteria in the colon by attacking it. The disease is unpredictable, and unpleasant flare ups can be experienced. Mouth ulcers, sore eyes, joint conditions like arthritis and bone issues such as osteoporosis can all play a part in causing significant health issues. 

Stool samples and blood tests can determine the presence of ulcerative colitis. More extensive tests include a sigmoidoscopy, which involves a sigmoidoscope being inserted into the bottom to assess the bowel and any potential damage to it.  

Treatment

Immunosuppressants and steroid medicines can be used to treat ulcerative colitis. Unfortunately one in five people suffering with ulcerative colitis have severe symptoms which may lead to the need for surgery in which the inflamed large bowel is removed.  

Those who have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis are at an increased risk of developing bowel cancer, therefore regular endoscopies are recommended. 

To find out more or make an appointment with Mr Hornung, please call 0161 495 6148