Diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system. They are found most often in the colon. Diverticula are common, especially after age 40, and usually do not cause problems. An estimated 65 percent of the population is affected by the age 80. Diverticulitis occurs when one or more of the diverticula become inflamed or infected.
The signs and symptoms of diverticulitis include:
- Tenderness or pain in the lower left abdomen
- Bloating or gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Not feeling hungry and not eating
Diverticula develop when areas of your colon give way under pressure. This causes pouches to protrude through the colon wall. Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula tear, resulting in inflammation or infection. Factors that may increase risk include:
Because abdominal pain can indicate a number of problems, your Northeast Digestive Health Center provider will often diagnose diverticulitis by first ruling out other causes of abdominal pain. This will likely begin with a physical exam. Additional tests may include:
- Blood and urine tests to check for signs of infection
- Stool tests and liver function tests to rule out more serious conditions
- CT scan, which can indicate infected pouches and confirm a diagnosis
Treatment for diverticulitis depends on the symptoms. If mild, you may be treated at home, in which case your doctor is likely to recommend:
- Antibiotics, to treat infection
- A liquid diet while your bowel heals
- An over-the-counter pain reliever
If you have a severe attack or other health problems, you'll likely need to be hospitalized for treatment – typically involving intravenous antibiotics.