Font Size
A
A
A
1
...

Diverticulitis


Topic Overview

Lower digestive system

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulosis happens when pouches (diverticulaClick here to see an illustration.) form in the wall of the colonClick here to see an illustration.. If these pouches get inflamed or infected, it is called diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can be very painful.

What causes diverticulitis?

Doctors aren't sure what causes diverticula in the colon (diverticulosis). But they think that a low-fiber diet may play a role. Without fiber to add bulk to the stool, the colon has to work harder than normal to push the stool forward. The pressure from this may cause pouches to form in weak spots along the colon.

Diverticulitis happens when feces get trapped in the pouches (diverticula). This allows bacteria to grow in the pouches. This can lead to inflammation or infection.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of diverticulitis may last from a few hours to a week or more. Symptoms include:

  • Belly pain, usually in the lower left side, that is sometimes worse when you move. This is the most common symptom.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Bloating and gas.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Nausea and sometimes vomiting.
  • Not feeling like eating.

How is diverticulitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and will examine you. He or she may do tests to see if you have an infection or to make sure that you don't have other problems. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC).
  • Other tests, such as an X-ray or a CT scan.

How is it treated?

The treatment you need depends on how bad your symptoms are. You may need to have only liquids at first, and then return to solid food when you start feeling better. Your doctor will give you medicines for pain and antibiotics. Take the antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better.

For mild cramps and belly pain:

  • Use a heating pad, set on low, on your belly.
  • Relax. For example, try meditation or slow, deep breathing in a quiet room.
  • Take medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example).

You may need surgery only if diverticulitis doesn't get better with other treatment, or if you have problems such as long-lasting (chronic) pain, a bowel obstruction, a fistula, or a pocket of infection (abscess).

How can you prevent diverticulitis?

You may be able to prevent diverticulitis if you drink plenty of water, get regular exercise, and eat a high-fiber diet. A high-fiber diet includes whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about diverticular disease:

  • What is diverticulitis?
  • What causes it?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • Are there other conditions with symptoms similar to diverticulitis?
  • Who gets diverticulitis?

Being diagnosed:

  • How is diverticulitis diagnosed?
  • What happens during a medical history and physical exam for diverticulitis?
  • What types of imaging studies may be done to find diverticulitis?
  • How can doctors see bleeding caused by diverticulosis?

Getting treatment:

  • How is diverticulitis treated?
  • How can I increase fiber in my diet?
  • When is surgery done for diverticulitis?
  • What can I do at home to treat an attack of diverticulitis?
1
...

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.





Medical Dictionary