Diverticulosis in Teenagers

by Nicole Harms

Diverticulitis, a painful bowel condition that leads to abdominal pain and digestive complaints, rarely affects kids. Those who are at the highest risk of developing problems with diverticulitis are those older than 50. However, teens can occasionally develop this painful condition, and recognizing the symptoms will help them and their parents seek the right treatment.

What Is Diverticulitis?

The wall of the large intestine sometimes forms a small pouch known as a diverticulum. When that pouch becomes infected or gets swollen, it becomes painful and can cause problems such as a poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, rectal bleeding and cramping. Symptoms can also include a swollen, hard abdomen, poor appetite and a fever with chills. This condition is known as diverticulitis, and it can come on suddenly.

Diverticulitis in Young People

Diverticulitis typically affects adults because it takes time for the diverticulum to develop, but sometimes teens develop the condition. In some cases, it's because of a congenital defect of the intestines. According to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, some children are born with small pouches known as Meckel's diverticulum. In these cases, tissue left over from the prenatal development of the digestive system creates the pouch. If it becomes infected in the teen years, then the teenager can develop diverticulitis.

Causes of Diverticulitis

According to Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, doctors are not sure why the pouches form in the intestines in people who have traditional diverticulitis. Some believe it occurs because food moves too slowly through the bowels, which might happen when a teen eats a low fiber diet. Chronic constipation can also lead to the condition. Once the pouches form, digested food and stool particles can get trapped inside easily, leading to diverticulitis.

Treating Diverticulitis in Teens

If a teen has Meckel's diverticulum that are causing intense symptoms or rectal bleeding, the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh indicates that doctors will recommend surgical removal of the affected pouch to prevent rectal bleeding. For other forms of diverticulitis, treatment starts with resolving inflammation and infection, then giving the bowel a period of rest and changing the diet to prevent future complications. An increase in fiber, as recommended by Hartford Hospital, after treatment can help prevent future problems with diverticulitis. If the condition is severe, doctors might recommend surgical removal of part of the intestine.

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