Rare diverticular disease

illustration of the colonMany health-conscious men can recite their cholesterol counts, blood pressure readings, and PSA levels without even glancing at their medical records. But few of these well-informed gents can tell you if they have diverticular disease of the colon, even though it's an extremely common condition. That's understandable, since the most prevalent form of the problem, diverticulosis, produces few if any symptoms. Still, when complications develop, blissful ignorance about diverticulosis abruptly gives way to an unwelcome education about the pain of diverticulitis or the bleeding of diverticulosis. It's a learning experience that's particularly unfortunate, since diverticular disease is largely preventable.

Your colon

illustration of sigmoid colon showing diverticulosisThe colon is a 4 1/2-foot-long tube that constitutes the final portion of the intestinal tract. The food you eat is mostly digested in the stomach and small intestine. Residual material enters the colon, or large intestine, in the cecum, which lies in the right lower portion of the abdomen (see Figure 1). From there, digested material travels up the ascending colon, across the transverse colon, and down the descending colon to the final portion, the sigmoid colon, in the lower left part of the abdomen. The intestinal contents take about 18 to 36 hours to journey through the colon; in the process, the few remaining nutrients are snatched into the bloodstream and much of the water is absorbed, resulting in solid fecal material.

When healthy, the colon is a smooth cylinder lined by a layer of epithelial cells. The wall of the colon contains two groups of muscles, a circular muscle that rings the colon and three long muscles that run the entire length of the tube. Like all tissues, the colon requires a supply of blood; in part, it's provided by the many small penetrating arteries that pass through the colon's muscular wall to carry blood to its inner layer of epithelial cells.

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Popular Q&A

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What is a rare but interesting disorder?

There are 1,000s of rare and interesting disorders. Look at Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - or "mystery pneumonia bug"

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