Diverticulitis is swelling and infection of diverticula. These are small pouches that can form in the wall of the large intestine.
Infected pouches along the colon.
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This problem happens when the small pouches tear or become blocked by stool.
This problem is more common in older adults.
Things that may raise the risk of pouches forming are:
- Lack of activity
- Eating a low-fiber diet—fiber softens stools and makes them pass through the bowel more easily
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin use
Symptoms can come on suddenly. They vary from person to person and may include:
- Pain in the lower-left part of the belly
- A swollen and hard belly
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lack of hunger
- Fever or chills
Loose stools or problems passing stool
- Bleeding from the rectum
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Blood, urine, and stool tests may also be done.
Images may be taken. This can be done with:
The goal is to treat the infection and ease symptoms. Options are:
- IV fluids or a clear liquid diet to rest the bowel
- Medicines, such as:
- Pain relievers
- Antibiotics to treat infection
- Draining an infected abscess
to remove the diseased part of the colon
Increasing dietary fiber may prevent symptoms from returning in some people.
The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
Diverticular disease. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.fascrs.org/patients/disease-condition/diverticular-disease. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Diverticular disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diverticulosis-diverticulitis. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Diverticulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/diverticulitis. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Stollman N, Smalley W, et al, AGA Institute Clinical Guidelines Committee. American Gastroenterological Association Institute Guideline on the Management of Acute Diverticulitis. Gastroenterology. 2015 Dec;149(7):1944-9, technical review can be found in Gastroenterology 2015 Dec;149(7):1950.
7/31/2018 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/condition/diverticulitis: Ma W, Jovani M, et al. Association between obesity and weight change and risk of diverticulitis in women. Gastroenterology. 2018 Jul;155(1):58-66.e4.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 2/9/2021