Can You Die from Diverticulitis?

The formation of small pouches or diverticula along the walls of the intestines is called diverticulosis, but the condition becomes severe when an infection or inflammation develops in those small pouches, which is called diverticulitis. In some serious cases, diverticulitis may lead to a severe perforation of the bowel. The pouches are more common at the end of the sigmoid colons, which is on the left side of the abdomen, but they can form anywhere on the digestive tract.

Can You Die from Diverticulitis?

It looks possible considering how severe the condition can become.

Statistics show that more than 10% of Americans older than 40 years are suffering from diverticulitis, whereas diverticulitis kills more than 3,000 people every year. The condition becomes more common as you get older. Not seeking timely medical attention can turn diverticulitis into a life-threatening illness. People with diverticulitis should seek medical attention if they experience symptoms like severe abdominal pain, fever higher than 100F, low blood pressure, and inability to tolerate fluids.

Complications of Diverticulitis

Statistics show that one in five people eventually develop complications of diverticulitis. Can you die from diverticulitis? It may be possible depending on how complicated the situation is. Here are some of the possible complications associated with diverticulitis.

1.    Bleeding

About 15% of diverticulitis patient will eventually experience bleeding, which is not painful and usually resolves without any medical treatment. In 20% of cases, the bleeding may not stop and require an emergency blood transfusion.

2.    Urinary Problems

Diverticulitis leads to the inflammation of the bowel, which in turn might irritate the bladder. This can cause several urinary problems, such as frequent urination, pain when urinating, and air in the urine.

3.    Abscess

An abscess – a pus-filled lump or cavity in the tissue – can form right outside the large intestine. In case of an abscess, you usually need to undergo a surgical procedure called percutaneous abscess drainage (PAD), which involves draining the abscess with the use of a fine needle and an ultrasound or CT scanner. Your radiologist may have to repeat the procedure several times to help remove all the pus – this usually happens in case of a large abscess. A small abscess may respond well to antibiotics.

4.    Fistula

This common complication of diverticulitis is the result of two infected tissues touching each other and then sticking together even after the tissues have healed. The formation of fistula allows bacteria to travel and infect other body parts as well. Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove that section of the colon that has the fistula.

5.    Peritonitis

You develop peritonitis in case an infected pouch in your colon splits and spreads the infection into the abdominal lining. The infection can cause life-threatening complications and usually requires immediate medical attention. Your doctor may try antibiotics first, but surgery is often required to drain any pus in the affected area. You may require a colostomy in rare cases.

6.    Intestinal Obstruction

You may experience a total or partial intestinal obstruction because of the infection scarring your large intestine. You require immediate medical attention if you have a totally blocked large intestine or else you may end up developing peritonitis. You also need treatment for a partially blocked large intestine. When left untreated, it makes it difficult to digest food. Your doctor may consider removing the blocked part through a surgical procedure, but a colostomy is needed in case the blockage or scarring is more extensive.

Know the Signs and When to Seek Help

Can you die from diverticulitis? Many complications can occur due to diverticulitis, so you should know the symptoms and talk to your doctor as soon as possible to avoid life-threatening consequences.

One of the main symptoms of diverticulitis includes abdominal pain and cramping that is more severe on the left side. You may also experience chills, nausea, fever, rectal bleeding, and constipation or diarrhea. You should call your doctor if you notice blood in your stool, have a high fever with chills, and feel that your abdomen has become rigid.

Home Remedies May Help to Prevent It

To avoid serious complications of diverticulitis, you can try some home remedies as well. For instance:

  • Be sure to live an active life and exercise regularly. It improves bowel function and lowers pressure inside your colon. Only 30 minutes of exercise a few days a week will do.
  • Consider increasing your intake of fiber. Ensure that your diet has five portions of veggies and fruit a day, along with whole grain. You should take 18-30g of fiber a day, but your doctor can help set a target considering your age and height. Do not increase your intake of fiber suddenly, as this might lead to flatulence, bloating, and constipation.
  • Increase your intake of fluids. Getting more fiber from your diet is also important, but fiber works by absorbing water. Therefore, you should drink more water and fluids to prevent constipation and other digestive problems.