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Diverticulitis (cont.)

Symptoms

Symptoms of diverticulitis may last from a few hours to several days. These symptoms may include:

  • Tenderness, cramps, or pain in the abdomen (usually in the lower left side but may occur on the right) that is sometimes worse when you move.
  • Fever and chills.
  • A bloated feeling, abdominal swelling, or gas.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Nausea and sometimes vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.

Complications also can cause symptoms. If an abnormal opening (fistula) develops between the colon and the vagina or the colon and the urethra, you may pass air or stool from the vagina or the urethra.

Other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or a urinary tract infection, may cause symptoms similar to diverticulitis.

What Happens

Diverticulitis occurs when pouches (diverticulaClick here to see an illustration.) that have developed in the wall of the large intestine (colon) become inflamed or infected. It is not clearly understood why 20 out of 100 people who have these pouches—a condition called diverticulosis—develop diverticulitis and the others do not.

In Western countries (North America and Europe), diverticulitis usually affects the left side of the colon (sigmoid colon).

Mild attacks of diverticulitis, with few symptoms or signs of infection or inflammation, sometimes heal without treatment. In most cases, a doctor recommends oral antibiotics to resolve an infection and a clear liquid diet to rest the bowel until inflammation goes away.

When infection and symptoms are severe, diverticulitis is treated in the hospital. Treatment includes antibiotics given in a vein (intravenous, or IV) and resting the bowel with IV fluids. If severe diverticulitis is not treated, complications such as an abscess or fistula may develop. Surgery often is needed to treat complications.

It is common to have lower abdominal pain after recovering from an attack of diverticulitis. But this pain is not always a return of diverticulitis. Less than half of people ever have a second diverticulitis attack. Of those who do have another attack, about half have the second attack within 1 year of their first one.1

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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