What is diverticular disease?

Diverticula are small pouches/sacs that develop in the weak spots in the wall of the colon (large intestine). Diverticular disease is the term used to describe a group of conditions that involve diverticula. Diverticulosis is the term used to describe the formation of diverticula pouches/sacs in the colon. 
Diverticula are most commonly found in the sigmoid colon (portion of large intestine closest to the rectum) but they can occur anywhere in the colon. In people with diverticulosis, the diverticula tend to cause no problems. Diverticulosis is common as people age and for a lot of people can go undetected. When the diverticula pouches become inflamed and/or infected, diverticulitis occurs. When diverticulitis occurs, other complications can occur with it such as abscess formation, bleeding, blockage of the colon, and narrowing (stricture) of the colon. When secondary complications like these occur, it is called complicated diverticulitis
Risk factors
  • Low fiber diet
  • Aging: Diverticular disease is more common as you age
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet high in animal fat
  • Certain medication use such as steroids, opiates, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Decrease in healthy gut bacteria
  • Increase in disease causing bacteria in the gut
Diagnosis of diverticular disease usually occurs when someone suffers from an acute attack of diverticulitis. One main symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain. Diagnosis will likely include a complete medical history and examination. The doctor will want to know about your symptoms and will likely run tests to rule out other causes of your abdominal pain. 
Common tests used to diagnose diverticular disease include:
  • Blood and urine tests to look for indications of infection 
  • Liver function tests to rule out liver problems as the cause of abdominal pain 
  • Stool tests may be done if diarrhea is a symptom in order to rule out certain infections. 
  • Pregnancy test for women in order to rule out pregnancy as the cause of abdominal pain. 
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen/pelvis can show the inflamed/infected diverticula pouches and confirm the diagnosis of diverticulitis. A CT scan can help to show the severity of diverticulitis as well. 
  • Colonoscopy: a thin, flexible, scope with a camera attached is used to look at the colon.
  • Barium enema: a test that puts liquid material into the colon through a tube that is placed in the rectum. An x-ray is then taken and shows the outline of the colon in order to identify diverticula. 
Treatment for diverticular disease depends on one’s symptoms and their severity. People with diverticulosis may be asymptomatic and only have symptoms if they have an acute attack of diverticulitis. 
Potential treatments for diverticular disease include:
  • Antibiotics
  • Liquid diet that gradually builds in solid foods
  • Over the counter pain relievers
  • Surgery 
  • Abscess drainage 
  • About 1/2 of all people over the age of 60 have diverticulosis 
  • Diverticulosis is slightly more common in men than women
  • Diverticulosis is uncommon in people under the age of 30 
  • Risk for developing diverticulosis starts increasing after one turns 40 
about diverticular disease

  • "Diverticulitis." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 07 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Sep. 2017.
  • “Diverticular Disease.” American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. ASCRS, n.d. Web. 21 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Diverticular Disease.” National Institutes of Health U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institue of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, n.d. Web. 21 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis.” National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, 11 May. 2017. Web. 21 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis.” American College of Gastroenterology, Sep. 2008. Web. 21 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Diverticular Disease.” American Academy of Family Physicians. familydoctor.org, Jun. 2017. Web. 21 Sep. 2017. 



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