Diverticulosis in an Elderly Woman

September 14, 2005
Benjamin J. Marano Jr, MD

,
Hal J. Freiman, MD

An 84-year old woman, who depends on a weekly dose of magnesium citrate to have a bowel movement, has extensive diverticulosis throughout the length of the colon.

An 84-year old woman, who depends on a weekly dose of magnesium citrate to have a bowel movement, has extensive diverticulosis throughout the length of the colon. The photographs show typical lesions. Diverticula may occur singly or clustered in small groups, with narrow or broad openings into the colonic lumen.

Diverticulosis rarely affects persons under age 40; however, its incidence increases dramatically with each succeeding decade. Although patients with this disorder are frequently asymptomatic, abdominal cramps, constipation, and flatulence may mark the disease's presence, write Drs Benjamin J. Marano, Jr, and Hal J. Freiman of Hartsdale, NY.

Diverticulosis is a major cause of painless rectal bleeding in the elderly, and it may be a presenting complaint in some. Acute diverticulitis develops in a small percentage of those affected with this condition.

For patients with uncomplicated diverticulosis, an increase in dietary fiber or fiber supplements can reduce symptoms. For those unwilling or unable to change their eating habits, fiber-bulking laxatives are helpful.