Diverticulitis is an infectious inflammatory condition that occurs in a diverticula, a thinned-out portion of the colon.
Signs and Symptoms of Diverticulitis
While diverticulosis doesn’t present symptoms, there are clear warning signs of diverticulitis, the inflamed form of the condition, including:
- Abdominal pain or tenderness
- Change in bowel habits
- Nausea and vomiting
- Frequent urination
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal bleeding
What Does Diverticulitis Pain Feel Like?
The pain can come on suddenly and severely, or it may increase in severity over a period of days. It can also fluctuate in intensity.
Advanced Symptoms of Diverticulitis
- Fever over 100 degrees F (38 degrees C)
- Worsening or severe abdominal pain
- Inability to tolerate fluids
- Feeling light-headed, dizzy, or showing other signs of low blood pressure.
If you have any of these symptoms, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible.
Common Questions & Answers
Causes and Risk Factors of Diverticulitis
Aging People older than 40 are more likely to be diagnosed with diverticulitis.
Obesity?A body mass index of 30 or over means you’re obese.
Smoking People who smoke cigarettes are more likely to get diverticulitis.
Can Nuts and Seeds Increase Your Risk of Diverticulitis?
This theory explains why, for decades, doctors advised people with diverticulosis (the presence of diverticula) not to eat nuts, seeds, or popcorn, which they believed could block the openings of the diverticula and lead to flare-ups of diverticulitis.
Can a Low-Fiber Diet Cause Diverticula to Form?
Research suggests that the link between a low-fiber diet and an increased risk of diverticulitis is simply that — a link without a causal relationship, at least for now.
How Is Diverticulitis Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of diverticulitis, your doctor will likely take the following actions:
- Gather information about your full medical history, including preexisting conditions and risk factors
- Examine your abdomen to check for tenderness
- Perform a rectal exam to check for rectal bleeding
- Perform a blood test to check your white blood cells and determine if you have an infection
- Order a diagnostic test to get a picture of your colon and determine if diverticula are present and whether they are inflamed or infected
Prognosis of Diverticulitis
While some people with diverticulitis will require intravenous antibiotics or even surgery, many can be treated at home.
Your doctor may recommend hospitalization if you have the following characteristics or symptoms:
- You are older.
- You are unable to take oral fluids.
- You have other existing health conditions.
- The inflammation or infection you are experiencing is particularly severe.
Duration of Diverticulitis
Treatment and Medication Options for Diverticulitis
If you are generally in good health and the inflammation or infection you are experiencing is not severe, your doctor will likely proceed with nonsurgical, at-home treatments for diverticulitis.
For mild cases, doctors prescribe a light or low-residue diet. Sometimes a clear liquid diet for a few days is required to treat diverticulitis. This allows your digestive tract to rest and begin healing and will also keep you hydrated.
Foods and drinks to consume might include:
- Clear broths
- Clear soups
- Juices without pulp, such as apple juice
- Plain gelatin
- Ice chips
- Tea without milk
As you begin to feel better, you can start reintroducing foods into your diet, including:
- Canned or cooked fruit and vegetables with no skin or seeds
- Eggs, fish, and poultry
- White bread
- Low-fiber cereal
- Milk, yogurt, and cheese
- White rice, pasta, and noodles
For most patients, bowel rest and a liquid diet should be enough to manage uncomplicated diverticulitis.
The guidance states that doctors may prescribe antibiotics for some patients, including those who are immunocompromised or medically frail.
These broad-spectrum antibiotics are commonly used:
- Metronidazole (Flagyl)
- Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (Bactrim, Septra)
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- Amoxicillin and clavulanate (Augmentin)
Alternative and Complementary Therapies
Prevention of Diverticulitis
To?prevent diverticulitis, consider the following:
- Exercise regularly
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid smoking
It’s also recommended to eat a diet high in fiber. Fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables soften stool and help it pass more easily.
Complications of Diverticulitis
Left untreated, diverticulitis can lead to life-threatening illness.
About 25 percent of people with diverticulitis develop complications. Some of these include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Intestinal obstruction
Research and Statistics: How Many People Have Diverticulitis?
BIPOC Communities and Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis affects people differently, with complications and hospitalization occurring more among certain races and ethnic groups — namely Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans.
Black Americans and Diverticulitis
Hispanic Americans and Diverticulitis
Native Americans and Diverticulitis
It's believed that this disparity is largely due to the higher rate of diverticulitis risk factors like smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity among Native Americans.
Related Causes and Conditions of Diverticulitis
When left untreated, diverticulitis can cause complications such as a bowel obstruction, perforation, or abscess.
But conditions related to diverticulitis aren’t limited to those affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Diverticulitis has been associated with other ailments, too.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diverticulitis Resources We Love
Favorite Resources for Patient Information
The AGA describes itself as a “trusted voice in the gastrointestinal community.” The group's website is an excellent place to start if you're looking for general information on diverticulitis. Glean insights on getting tested and potential complications, and download its comprehensive patient info PDF to your phone, tablet, or computer for quick reference at your next doctor’s appointment.
Diverticulitis can have a huge impact on your life, and it’s the GI Society’s aim to make living with this condition easier. Its website offers general information about diverticulitis as well as practical tips, such as managing diverticular disease as a young person. Read advice on recommended fiber intake and physical activity, or check out the Q&A section or videos.
The ACG is committed to enhancing patient care based on the most recent research available. On its site, you’ll learn about diverticulitis causes, treatment options, prevention, and more. It offers a wealth of multimedia resources, too. This includes podcasts, videos, brochures, and a “Find a Gastroenterologist” search tool.
Favorite Resources for Diet Advice
Not sure what to eat with diverticulitis? While your doctor might give recommendations and tips, it can be difficult to remember everything you've heard. No worries — the Mayo Clinic does a superb job highlighting foods that are safe to eat with diverticulitis.
We can't talk about diverticular disease without including the NIDDK. Even if you know the benefit of consuming fiber to manage diverticulosis or prevent another episode of diverticulitis, you may not know how much to eat. The NIDDK provides a breakdown of the best fiber-rich foods to consume, as well as how much to eat each day.
For more on how to add more fiber to your diet, check out our article.
Favorite Site for Online Support
Diverticulitis can be overwhelming and frustrating, so there's comfort in knowing you're not alone with this illness. Local in-person support isn’t always an option. But with an online group, you can lean on others for diet and medication advice, or simply for emotional support, anytime of the day or night.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Definition and Facts for Diverticular Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. August 2021.
- Symptoms and Causes of Diverticular Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. August 2021.
- Diverticular Disease Expanded Information. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
- Diverticulitis.?Mayo Clinic. May 7, 2020.
- Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis of the Colon. Cleveland Clinic. April 1, 2020.
- How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 7, 2020.
- Are There Trigger Foods I Should Avoid to Prevent Diverticulitis Attacks? Mayo Clinic. November 30, 2021.
- Peery AF, Sandler RS, Ahnen DJ, et al. Constipation and a Low-Fiber Diet Are Not Associated With Diverticulosis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. December 2013.
- Salzman H, Lillie D. Diverticular Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment. American Family Physician. October 2005.
- Diverticulitis Diet. Mayo Clinic. December 1, 2021.
- Elisei W, Tursi A. Recent Advances in the Treatment of Colonic Diverticular Disease and Prevention of Acute Diverticulitis. Annals of Gastroenterology. January–March 2016.
- Diverticular Disease of the Colon. Harvard Health Publishing. August 29, 2020.
- Peery AF. Colonic Diverticula and Diverticular Disease. North Carolina Medical Journal. May–June 2016.
- Diverticular Disease and Diverticulitis. NHS. September 29, 2020.
- Improving Your Health With Fiber. Cleveland Clinic. April 15, 2019.
- The Colon: What It Is, What It Does. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
- Shahedi K, Fuller G, Bolus R, et al. Long-Term Risk of Acute Diverticulitis Among Patients With Incidental Diverticulosis Found During Colonoscopy. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. December 2013.
- Diverticulitis.?UCSF Department of Surgery. May 2016.
- Imaeda H, Hibi T. The Burden of Diverticular Disease and Its Complications: West Versus East. Inflammatory Intestinal Diseases. December 2018.
- Wheat CL, Strate LL. Trends in Hospitalization for Diverticulitis and Diverticular Bleeding in the United States From 2000 to 2010. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. January 2016.
- Bose KP, Khorshidi I, Southern WN, et al. The Impact of Ethnicity and Obesity on the Course of Colonic Diverticulitis. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. February 2013.
- Meyer J, Buchs NC, Ris F. Risk of Colorectal Cancer in Patients With Diverticular Disease. World Journal of Clinical Oncology. October 2018.
- Lin J-N, Lin C-L, Yang C-H, et al. Increased Risk of Acute Coronary Syndrome in Patients With Diverticular Disease. Medicine. November 2015.
- Hsiao CWK, Wann JG, Lin C-S, et al. Colonic Diverticulitis With Comorbid Diseases May Require Elective Colectomy. World Journal of Gastroenterology. October 2013.
- Peng Y-C, Lin C-L, Yeh H-Z, et al. Diverticular Disease and Additional Comorbidities Associated With Increased Risk of Dementia. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. November 2016.