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THURSDAY, Dec. 5, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Diverticulosis -- a medical problem characterized by pouches in the lining of the colon -- is much less risky than previously believed, a new study contends.
Previous research concluded that up to one-quarter of people with diverticulosis will develop a painful and sometimes serious infection called diverticulitis. But this new 15-year study shows that the risk is actually only about 1 percent over seven years.
"These colon pouches are commonly detected during colonoscopy, and patients wonder if they are important and what to do with them," said study senior author Dr. Brennan Spiegel, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. "In short, diverticulosis is not something to worry much about. Chances are low that something will happen," Spiegel said in a university news release.
The UCLA team also found that people diagnosed with diverticulosis at a younger age are more likely to develop diverticulitis than those diagnosed at an older age.
The study included more than 2,200 patients with diverticulosis who were followed for roughly seven years. Of those patients, about 4 percent developed diverticulitis based on a liberal definition of the condition. However, only 1 percent developed diverticulitis that met a strict definition of the condition.
And while people who were diagnosed with diverticulosis at a younger age were more likely to develop diverticulitis, their risk was nowhere near the previously cited 25 percent, according to the study published in the December issue of the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Most people develop diverticulosis as they age. More than half of people over 60 and two-thirds of those over 70 have the condition, but it usually doesn't cause problems. If a patient develops diverticulitis, doctors typically treat the condition with antibiotics. In severe cases, surgery may be required.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about diverticulosis and diverticulitis.