Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Diverticular Disease

Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis (Diverticular disease)

What is Diverticular Disease?

People with diverticulosis have a condition that shows small pouches in the lining of the colon (called diverticula/ diverticulum) or the large intestine. These pouches bulge outward through weak spots on the outer layer. Diverticulitis is what it is referred to when the diverticulum ruptures and becomes infected. This disease is common among people over the age of 60.

What causes Diverticular disease?

Diverticular disease is more common in the United States than another other country, but the condition can also be found in places of high industrialization where diets tend to contain less fiber such as England and Australia. Diets that are lacking fiber and contain a high amount of processed carbohydrates are more likely to develop diverticulosis. More than half of the population over the age of 60 is believed to have diverticulosis and since there are few symptoms the condition often goes unnoticed and untreated.

Other causes of the condition may result from an increased pressure on the intestinal wall such as when there is repeated straining during bowel movements, hardened stools due to diets low in fiber can increase pressure during defecation, and as the body ages the walls of the intestine become more narrow slowing down the process of defecation.

What are the symptoms of Diverticulosis?

Most people with diverticulosis will show no symptoms, however there are a few warning signs to look for. It is important to remember that these are non specific symptoms and may not be linked to diverticular disease but could account for any number of digestive disorders.

  • Abdomen pain
  • Constant bloating
  • Increased constipation
  • chronic cramping

More serious cases of diverticulosis may show:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen, especially in the lower left side of the stomach
  • Bleeding
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold chills/night sweats
  • Constipation

All of these symptoms could increase drastically for patients with untreated cases of diverticulosis.

How is Diverticulosis treated?

Diverticuolosis can be detected by a simple abdominal ultrasound or a computerized tomography (CT) scan. Immediate treatment options may include a change in diet to include higher fiber content, clear fluids and mild pain medications. The goal of treatment is to cleaning and clearing the intestines of inflammation and infections to minimize the complications.