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Jul 31, 2014 07:41 AM EDT

People suffering from diverticulitis experience psychological and physical symptoms long after the acute illness has been cured, according to a new study by the University of California - Los Angeles.

The researchers said that for some patients, diverticulitis results in a chronic condition that resembles irritable bowel syndrome.

Until now, researchers thought the condition to be acute with periods of relative silence in between attacks, but the new study shows that it is not true for everyone. Some patients suffer from enduring symptoms.

For the study, researchers surveyed patients in detail about symptoms they endured weeks, months or even years after an acute diverticulitis attack.

In the survey, patients described feelings of fear, anxiety, depression and social isolation. They were also stigmatized for having the condition. Participants also said that they are scared to travel and have this constant fear suffering another attack. On the other hand, some of them were associated with annoying physical symptoms like bloating, watery stools, abdominal pain, incomplete evacuation and nausea.

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"We dug deeper into identifying the chronic physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms that can profoundly change people's lives after an attack of diverticulitis," said Dr. Brennan Spiegel, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and the Fielding School of Public Health, in a statement. "Our findings reveal that many people suffer silently with severe quality-of-life problems long after an acute diverticulitis attack."

The researchers believe that this finding could lead to a better understanding and management of the disease.

"Doctors often don't know to ask about these ongoing symptoms," Spiegel said. "We hope that our findings and new tool will help physicians better tailor individual treatment and reassure patients that they aren't alone."

The finding is published in the peer-reviewed journal Quality of Life Research.

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