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Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis Diet, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Facts and Definition of Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis

  • Diverticulosis is a condition that describes small pouches in the wall of the digestive tract that occur when the inner layer of the digestive tract bulges through weak spots in the outer layer. When these diverticula become inflamed, that is called diverticulitis.
  • One of the main causes of diverticulosis is a diet low in fiber.
  • Many people with diverticulosis have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur they can include:
  • Diverticulitis is more serious and symptoms can include:
  • Diagnosis of diverticulosis/diverticulitis is made by a physical exam, which may include a digital rectal examination, blood tests, X-rays or CT scans of organs in the abdomen, a colonoscopy, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy.
  • Treatment for diverticulosis includes a diet high in fiber, fiber supplementation if needed, plenty of fluids, and exercise.
  • Diverticulitis also is treated with antibiotics and sometimes surgery.

What Is Diverticulitis? What Does It Look Like (Pictures)?

Diverticula are small pouches in the wall of the digestive tract. They occur when the inner layer of the digestive tract bulges through weak spots in the outer layer. (This is similar to what happens when an inner tube bulges through a tire.)

  • Although these pouches can occur any place from the mouth to the anus, most occur in the large intestine (colon), especially the left (lower) portion of the colon just before the rectum.
  • These marble-sized pouches usually occur where the blood vessels run through the intestinal wall.
  • Individuals who have these pouches have diverticulosis.
  • Because this condition typically does not cause symptoms, most people are unaware they have diverticulosis.
Picture of diverticulitis, diverticulosis, diverticular disease
Picture of diverticulitis, diverticulosis, diverticular disease

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Diverticulitis?

Most people with diverticulosis have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they are usually mild and include:

  • Pain in the belly (abdomen)
  • Bloating
  • Constipation (less often, diarrhea)
  • Cramping

These symptoms are nonspecific. This means that similar symptoms are seen in many different digestive disorders. They do not necessarily mean that a person has diverticulosis. If an individual has these symptoms, he or she should see a health-care professional.

Diverticulitis is a more serious condition and causes symptoms in most people with the condition that include:

  • Pain in the abdomen, usually in the lower left side
  • Bleeding, bright red or maroon blood may appear in the stool, in the toilet (a symptom of rectal bleeding), or on the toilet paper. Bleeding is often mild and usually stops by itself; however, it can become severe.
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Constipation (less often, diarrhea)

If diverticulitis is not treated promptly it can develop some very serious complications. A complication is suggested by any of these symptoms:

  • Worsening abdominal pain
  • Persistent fever
  • Vomiting (no food or liquid can be tolerated)
  • Constipation for an extended period of time
  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Bleeding from the rectum
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/19/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis) Symptoms and Diet:

Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis) - Symptoms

The symptoms of diverticulitis (diverticulosis) can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?

Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis) - Surgery Recovery

Please describe your recovery after surgery for diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis - Experience

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Diverticulitis - Diet

What foods have you found that aggravate diverticulitis? What foods have been helpful with easing diverticulitis symptoms?

Colonoscopy for Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis Diagnosis

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure that doctors use to diagnose diseases of part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, for example, celiac disease, colon polyps, diverticulitis, colitis, Crohn's disease, and cancers of the GI tract. Part of the preparation or "prep" for colonoscopy may include a combination of:

  • a liquid diet
  • laxatives, or
  • enemas.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Diverticulitis »

Diverticula are small mucosal herniations protruding through the intestinal layers and the smooth muscle along the natural openings created by the vasa recta or nutrient vessels in the wall of the colon.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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