DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 78-year-old female, active and in good health — or so I thought. I eat right and never smoked or drank alcohol. Yesterday, a colonoscopy showed severe diverticulosis. The doctor prescribed Benefiber, then left and never returned.
I am stunned. What do I do now? Will I have this forever? Am I unhealthy? How does one develop diverticulosis? What the difference between “osis” and “itis”? — S.K.
ANSWER: Your world isn’t collapsing. You’re healthy. You’ll have diverticulosis forever. By age 60, half of the people in North America have it. By age 80, two-thirds have it. A diverticulum is a bulge of the inner colon lining through the colon’s muscular wall to its outer surface. A diverticulum looks like a small soap bubble. It’s only 1/5 to 2/5 inches (0.5 to 1 cm) in diameter. You can thank our diet for diverticulosis. We refine flour and throw away its bran — the outer coat of grain.
In countries where whole grains (including the bran) are commonly used, diverticulosis is a rarity. Bran and other fiber hold water in undigested food. Without fiber, the food residue dries and becomes hard. The colon muscles have to generate a great deal of force to keep it moving. That force causes the colon lining to pop through the colon wall as a diverticulum. For most, diverticulosis is a silent condition that remains silent for life.
For a few, the diverticulum breaks and causes a local infection in the colon — diverticulitis. The pain of a diverticulitis attack is usually felt in the lower left corner of the abdomen, and sometimes people have fever and chills along with the pain. The attack is treated by resting the tract and by giving antibiotics.
We’re supposed to get 30 grams of fiber a day. Fruits (especially those with edible skins), many vegetables and whole-grain products are the source of dietary fiber. If people cannot get enough fiber in their diet, then commercial products like the one you’re taking fill the gap. Metamucil, Perdiem, Citrucel and Fiberall are other examples.
The booklet on diverticulosis explains the ins and outs of this very common disorder. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 502W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./ $6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband has chronic blepharitis and frequently develops hard buildups in both eyes that cause great discomfort. The doctor must remove them two times a month. What can be done to prevent them? — S.R.
ANSWER: Blepharitis (BLEF-uh-RYE-tiss) is inflammation of the eyelid margins, which become red and crusty. The crust can build up into hard deposits. A twice-a-day program of lid cleansing might eliminate the crusts.
Have your husband apply warm compresses (a wet washcloth) to closed lids for five to 10 minutes and then massage the lids. After the massage, he cleanses the lid margins with a cottontipped applicator dipped in a solution of one part baby shampoo and one part water. The doctor might have to prescribe an antibiotic ointment.
Readers may write to Dr. Donohue or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853-6475.
©2009 North America Synd.