Today’s installment of our continuing series, Ailments of Aging Rock Stars, features Van Halen frontman Eddie Van Halen.
Eddie Van Halen underwent an emergency surgery for a severe bout of Diverticulitis. No further surgeries are needed and a full recovery is expected within 4 – 6 months.
In 2001, Van Halen announced that he was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. A year later, he was cancer free.
Many people have small pouches in the lining of the colon, or large intestine, that bulge outward through weak spots. E€ach pouch is called a diverticulum (multiple pouches are called diverticula). The condition of having diverticula is called diverticulosis.
About 10 percent of Americans older than 40 have diverticulosis. The condition becomes more common as people age, with about half of all people older than 60 having diverticulosis.
Diverticula are most common in the lower portion of the large intestine, called the sigmoid colon.
When the pouches become inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis. Ten to 25 percent of people with diverticulosis get diverticulitis.
Although not proven, the main theory is that a low-fiber diet causes diverticular disease. The disease was first noticed in the United States in the early 1900s, around the time processed foods were introduced into the American diet. Consumption of processed foods has greatly reduced Americans fiber intake.
Constipation—or hard stool—may cause people to strain when passing stool during a bowel movement. Straining may cause increased pressure in the colon, which may cause the colon lining to bulge out through weak spots in the colon wall, causing diverticula.
There may also be a genetic component to diverticular disease, as it tends to run in families.
Doctors are not certain what causes diverticula to become inflamed. The inflammation may begin when bacteria or stool are caught in the diverticula. An attack of diverticulitis can develop suddenly and without warning.
The most common symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain. The most common sign on examination is tenderness in the lower left side of the abdomen.
Usually, the pain is severe and comes on suddenly, but it can also be mild and become worse over several days. The intensity of the pain can fluctuate.
A person may experience cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, or a change in bowel habits.
Diverticulitis can lead to bleeding, infections, small tears (called perforations), or blockages in the colon. These complications always require treatment to prevent them from progressing and causing serious illness.
A high-fiber diet and pain medications help relieve symptoms in most cases of diverticulosis. Uncomplicated diverticulitis with mild symptoms usually requires the person to rest, take oral antibiotics, and be on a liquid diet for a period of time.
Sometimes an attack of diverticulitis is serious enough to require a hospital stay, intravenous (IV) antibiotics, and possibly surgery.
For more information, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis.