Diverticulitis - Topic Overview

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What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulosis happens when pouches (diverticula camera.gif) form in the wall of the colon camera.gif. If these pouches get inflamed or infected, it is called diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can be very painful.

What causes diverticulitis?

Doctors aren't sure what causes diverticula in the colon (diverticulosis). But they think that a low-fiber diet may play a role. Without fiber to add bulk to the stool, the colon has to work harder than normal to push the stool forward. The pressure from this may cause pouches to form in weak spots along the colon.

Doctors aren't sure what causes diverticulitis. Bacteria grow in the pouches, and this can lead to inflammation or infection.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of diverticulitis may last from a few hours to a week or more. Symptoms include:

How is diverticulitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and will examine you. He or she may do tests to see if you have an infection or to make sure that you don't have other problems. Tests may include:

How is it treated?

The treatment you need depends on how bad your symptoms are. You may need to have only liquids at first, and then return to solid food when you start feeling better. Your doctor will give you medicines for pain and antibiotics. Take the antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better.

For mild cramps and belly pain:

  • Use a heating pad, set on low, on your belly.
  • Relax. For example, try meditation or slow, deep breathing in a quiet room.
  • Take medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

You may need surgery only if diverticulitis doesn't get better with other treatment, or if you have problems such as long-lasting (chronic) pain, a bowel obstruction, a fistula, or a pocket of infection (abscess).

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How can you prevent diverticulitis?

You may be able to prevent diverticulitis if you drink plenty of water, get regular exercise, and eat a high-fiber diet. A high-fiber diet includes whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about diverticular disease:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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