Symptoms and Signs of Diverticulitis vs. IBS

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 9/30/2021

Doctor's Notes on Diverticulitis vs. IBS

Diverticular disease (diverticulitis) is a condition in which small pouches (diverticula) in the wall of the digestive tract become inflamed or infected. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that describes a group of symptoms. IBS is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a more serious condition. 

Symptoms of diverticular disease (diverticulitis) include 

Symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) include

  • abdominal discomfort or pain,
  • abdominal cramping and pain that is relieved with bowel movements, and
  • alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation

IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) symptoms include

  • sudden urges to have bowel movements,
  • loose stools,
  • frequent stools, 
  • abdominal pain and discomfort, 
  • gas, and
  • the feeling of being unable to completely empty the bowels.

What is the treatment for diverticulitis and IBS?

The treatment for diverticulitis typically involves antibiotics and a liquid diet while the intestine heals.

  • In severe cases, intravenous antibiotics may be required.
  • Surgery is generally reserved for those with complicated or recurrent diverticulitis.

The treatment for IBS involves dietary changes and medications. Types of medications that may be used include

  • anti-diarrheal medications,
  • fiber supplements, and other laxatives,
  • medications to reduce bowel spasms, and
  • antidepressants, which have been shown to be helpful in some people with IBS.
  • There are also newer medications specifically designed to treat certain people with IBS.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.