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Gallstones & Diverticulitis

By Gary H. Hoffman M.D. ; Updated August 14, 2017

Although gallstone disease and diverticulitis usually start with different symptoms, they may, on rare occasion, cause a similar type of pain, resulting in a diagnostic dilemma for your physician. In most cases, the signs and symptoms are different enough to allow for straightforward and rapid diagnosis and treatment. Diverticulitis is an inflammation of small pockets of your large intestine, also known as your colon. Gallstones are pebble-like formations of hardened bile located in the gallbladder, which is beneath your right rib cage.

Gallstone disease, called acute cholecystitis, may first appear with sudden, severe pain centered under your right rib cage, often with associated back pain, nausea and vomiting and fever. Gallstone disease also can be an ongoing condition called chronic cholecystitis, which may worsen after you eat a fatty meal. A surgeon can examine you and determine if your gallbladder is the likely source of your symptoms. If so, a hospital stay is usually necessary. You may be given antibiotics, and ultimately your gallbladder may be removed during a procedure known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Once your diseased gallbladder has been removed and you have recovered, you should not experience further problems.

Diverticulitis, or an inflammation of colon pockets, produces pain ranging from mild to intense that usually occurs on the left side of your abdomen. A perforated, or ruptured diverticulitis may cause your abdomen to become rigid. Your colon and rectal surgeon, formerly called a proctologist, or your general surgeon evaluates you and usually begins treatment with antibiotics. Diverticulitis seldom requires hospitalization. On rare occasion, an operation may be necessary, especially if you have experienced a perforation that allows the free flow of your colon's contents into your general abdominal cavity. Diverticulitis is usually a disease of older individuals.

Education and attention to your symptoms is the wisest course and easiest way to avoid the complications of either disease. The pain associated with these conditions generally prompts you to consult your physician, who can refer you to a colon and rectal specialist for diverticulitis or to a general surgeon for gallbladder disease. Seek medical advice early, do not be afraid to call when help is needed and become educated about your disease process.

Disclaimer

Dr. Hoffman does not endorse any products seen on this website.

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