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Diverticulitis - What Happens

Diverticulitis occurs when pouches (diverticula camera.gif) that have developed in the wall of the large intestine (colon) become inflamed or infected. It is not clearly understood why 20 out of 100 people who have these pouches—a condition called diverticulosis—develop diverticulitis and the others do not.

In Western countries (North America and Europe), diverticulitis usually affects the left side of the colon (sigmoid colon).

Mild attacks of diverticulitis, with few symptoms or signs of infection or inflammation, sometimes heal without treatment. In most cases, a doctor recommends oral antibiotics to resolve an infection and a clear liquid diet to rest the bowel until inflammation goes away.

When infection and symptoms are severe, diverticulitis is treated in the hospital. Treatment includes antibiotics given in a vein (intravenous, or IV) and resting the bowel with IV fluids. If severe diverticulitis is not treated, complications such as an abscess or fistula may develop. Surgery often is needed to treat complications.

It is common to have lower abdominal pain after recovering from an attack of diverticulitis. But this pain is not always a return of diverticulitis. Less than half of people ever have a second diverticulitis attack. Of those who do have another attack, about half have the second attack within 1 year of their first one.1

    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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