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Diverticulitis - Cause

Diverticulitis develops when feces become trapped in pouches (diverticula camera.gif) that have formed along the wall of the large intestine. This allows bacteria to grow and cause an infection or inflammation and pressure that may lead to a small perforation or tear in the wall of the intestine. Peritonitis, an infection of the lining of the abdominal wall, may develop if infection spills into the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity.

The reason diverticula form in the wall of the large intestine (colon) is not completely understood. Doctors think diverticula form when high pressure inside the colon pushes against weak spots in the colon wall. Uncoordinated movements of the colon can also contribute to the development of diverticula.

Normally, a diet with adequate fiber (also called roughage) produces stool that is bulky and can move easily through the colon. If a diet is low in fiber, the colon must exert more pressure than usual to move small, hard stool. A low-fiber diet also can increase the time stool remains in the bowel. This adds to the high pressure. Pouches may form when the high pressure pushes against weak spots in the colon where blood vessels pass through the muscle layer of the bowel wall to supply blood to the inner wall.

It is not known why some people who have these diverticula (a condition called diverticulosis) develop diverticulitis and others do not.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: October 25, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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