Diverticulitis

Written by Carmella Wint and Marijane Leonard | Published on 18 de julio de 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

Overview

Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula (bulging sacs that usually appear in the lining of the large intestine) get infected or inflamed. Although diverticula are most common in the large intestine (colon), they can develop anywhere in your digestive tract. Pain in the lower left side of your abdomen may indicate diverticulitis. The condition is treatable. However, it can recur.

What Causes Diverticulitis?

No one knows exactly what causes diverticula, but eating a diet that’s low in fiber is thought to contribute to the formation of the sacs. Eating fiber helps your stool stay soft, which makes it easier to pass. A diet that’s low in fiber can cause problems such as constipation. This requires more pressure to pass your stool. Increased pressure inside the colon is believed to lead to the development of diverticula. Diverticulitis occurs when fecal matter gets trapped in the diverticula and causes an infection.

Am I At Risk for Developing Diverticulitis?

Risk factors for diverticulitis include:

Not Eating Enough Fiber

In countries such as the United States where a large part of the population eats processed foods, not getting enough fiber is a common problem. Taking fiber supplements or eating more fresh vegetables and bran products can help.

Age

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, nearly half of people over the age of 60 will develop diverticulitis, but your risk begins to increase as early as age 40. Why age makes you susceptible to diverticulitis is not known, but it could have something to do with the weakening of the bowels over time.

What Are the Symptoms of Diverticulitis?

The most common and severe sign of diverticulitis is a pain on the lower left side of the abdomen that can appear suddenly. This pain can sometimes get worse over a few days. Other signs that you might have diverticulitis, in order of likelihood, are:

  • abdominal tenderness, usually on the lower left side
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • fever
  • gas or bloating
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • rectal bleeding

How Is Diverticulitis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will start your diagnosis by talking to you about the symptoms that you’re experiencing and your medical history. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, checking for any pain in the abdomen. A blood test might also be ordered to find out if your white blood cell count is higher than normal, which would indicate an infection. Your doctor might also order a computed tomography (CT) scan (which uses computer-guided X-ray images) to find out if you have diverticula that are infected.

How Is Diverticulitis Treated?

Depending on the severity of your case, your doctor might allow you to treat yourself at home or recommend that you stay in a hospital during treatment.

Treatment At Home

Treatment at home may include:

  • bed rest
  • a liquid diet to allow your diverticula to heal
  • prescription antibiotics
  • pain medication such as acetaminophen

Treatment at the Hospital

Your doctor may think it’s best for you to be treated in the hospital if you’ve developed any complications, such as a blockage in the bowels or an abscess (a sac filled with pus). While in the hospital, you’ll be treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics. If you have an abscess, it will need to be drained using a needle.

Surgery

If you get diverticulitis often or if your infections don’t seem to respond to antibiotics, your doctor might decide that surgery to remove the portion of your intestine where the diverticula are infected is best.

What Happens After Treatment?

Most diverticulitis treatments work well, but once diverticula form they will be there for the rest of your life. This means that you could develop diverticulitis again at any time. Lifestyle changes can help you avoid diverticulitis in the future. Drinking plenty of water is important for making sure you don’t get constipated, as is adding more fiber to your diet.

Add more fiber to your diet slowly by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables such as:

  • pears
  • raspberries
  • sweet potatoes with the skin on
  • black and kidney beans

Going to the bathroom when you feel the urge is also important for avoiding constipation. Waiting too long before going to the bathroom can cause your stool to become harder, which can increase the pressure in your bowels.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

Article Sources:

More on Healthline

Famous Athletes with Asthma
Famous Athletes with Asthma
Asthma shouldn’t be a barrier to staying active and fit. Learn about famous athletes who didn’t let asthma stop them from achieving their goals.
Lifestyle Changes to Help Manage COPD
Lifestyle Changes to Help Manage COPD
Leading a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in your COPD symptoms. Learn more about basic changes that will make it easier to manage your COPD.
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
The symptoms of RA are more than just joint pain and stiffness. Common symptoms include loss of feeling, muscle pain, and more. Learn more in this slideshow.
Easy Ways to Conceal an Epinephrine Shot
Easy Ways to Conceal an Epinephrine Shot
Learn how to discreetly carry your epinephrine autoinjectors safely and discreetly. It’s easier than you think to keep your shots on hand when you’re on the go.
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
From first exposure to life-threatening complications, learn how quickly an allergy attack can escalate and why it can become life threatening.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement