What Are the Symptoms of Diverticulitis?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 21, 2024
4 min read

When you have diverticulitis, you have an inflammation in your large intestine (colon). The walls of your colon are usually smooth. If you get bulging pouches in the lining of your colon, you have a condition called diverticulosis. A pouch is called a diverticulum; the plural is diverticula. When those pouches become infected or inflamed, that's diverticulitis.

The symptoms of diverticulitis are:

What does diverticulitis feel like? 

You can have an acute attack of diverticulitis, or it might be a chronic condition that flares up. 

An acute attack usually comes on suddenly. But an attack or flare-up might happen slowly over a few days. 

You'll probably be able to point to the specific spot that's inflamed. You'll feel a sharp or burning pain that's intense. The pain might start slowly and build over a few days. It might ease a bit after you have a bowel movement.

If your ancestry is European, you're most likely to get diverticulitis in the lower part of your colon, called the sigmoid. You're likely to feel pain in the lower left part of your belly. If your ancestry is Asian, you're more likely to have diverticula in the first part of your colon. Your pain might appear in the upper right area of your belly.

Can diverticulitis cause back pain?

You'll usually feel diverticulitis pain in your belly. But the pain might radiate from your belly and cause pain in your lower back. When you have a problem in one part of your body but feel the pain in a different part, that's called "referred" pain. It happens because of your body's nerve network and the pain signals sent by your brain. 

Diverticulitis pain also can radiate to your pelvis.

If you have belly pain that's constant and intense, you should see a doctor.

Specific signs that you should seek care include: 

  • You have a fever, chills, swelling in your belly, or are vomiting.
  • You have blood in your stool.
  • You have severe or persistent pain.
  • Your belly area becomes rigid and you have pain when you move. You could have peritonitis, an infection of the membrane that lines the stomach area. Get medical help right away.



Diverticulitis is inflammation of your colon. It happens when diverticula, small pouches that bulge out from the wall of your colon, become inflamed. The symptoms of diverticulitis can look like those of a lot of other digestive diseases. You might have constipation or diarrhea, cramping, or feel bloated. Often, you can point to the exact spot that hurts when you have diverticulitis. An attack can come on suddenly, and you'll have intense pain. Or the condition might happen gradually, and the pain gets worse over a few days. 

What are the warning signs of diverticulitis?

You can have diverticula (pouches that bulge out) in your colon without having any symptoms. Or you might have symptoms that are similar to those of other digestive problems, such as diarrhea, cramping, bloating, or constipation.  You might be more likely to have diverticulitis if you have any of the main risk factors, which include: 

  • You're overweight.
  • You don't eat much fiber.
  • You eat a lot of red meat.
  • You smoke.
  • You don't exercise. 
  • You drink a lot of alcohol.
  • You have low levels of vitamin D. 
  • You take opioids, steroids, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). 
  • Your genes make you more likely to get the condition.

What is the best treatment for diverticulitis?

If your case is mild, your doctor might have you take antibiotics, rest, and stick to a liquid diet for a few days.

More severe symptoms may require you to spend time in the hospital. You'll get medicine there via IV to treat your symptoms. 

You might need surgery to remove inflamed pouches from your colon or any sections of colon that are damaged.

What is the main cause of diverticulitis?

Experts don't know exactly what causes diverticulitis. It may be linked to a diet that doesn't have enough fiber. Without fiber, your poop is harder and you might get constipated. Those two things cause pressure in your colon, which may cause pouches to form. 

You also get pouches in your colon as you age, and the risk goes up when you hit 40. Most people 80 or older have some diverticula in their colons. If you have pouches, that condition is called diverticulosis. The pouches may not cause you any problems, but if they become inflamed, you have diverticulitis.