Diverticulosis of the colon is a common
condition that afflicts about 50 percent of Americans by age 60
and nearly all by age 80. Only a small percentage of those with
diverticulosis have symptoms, and even fewer will ever require
What is Diverticulosis/
Diverticula are pockets that develop in the
colon wall, usually in the sigmoid or left
colon, but may involve the entire colon. Diverticulosis
describes the presence of these pockets. Diverticulitis
describes inflammation or complications of these pockets.
What are the symptoms of diverticular
Uncomplicated diverticular disease is usually
not associated with symptoms. Symptoms are related to
complications of diverticular disease including diverticulits
and bleeding. Diverticular disease is a common cause of
significant bleeding from the colon.
Diverticulitis - an infection of the diverticula
- may cause one or more of the following symptoms: pain in the
abdomen, chills, fever and change in bowel habits. More intense
symptoms are associated with serious complications such as
perforation (rupture), abscess or fistula formation (an abnormal
connection between the colon and another organ or the skin).
What is the cause of diverticular
The cause of diverticulosis and diverticulitis
is not precisely known, but it is more common for people with a
low fiber diet. It is thought that a low-fiber diet over the
years creates increased colon pressure and results in pockets or
How is diverticular disease treated?
Increasing the amount of dietary fiber (grains,
legumes, vegetables, etc.) - and sometimes restricting certain
foods reduces the pressure in the colon and may decrease the
risk of complications due to diverticular disease.
Diverticulitis requires different management.
Mild cases may be managed with oral antibiotics, dietary
restrictions and possibly stool softeners. More severe cases
require hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics and dietary
restraints. Most acute attacks can be relieved with such
When is surgery necessary?
Surgery is reserved for patients with recurrent
episodes of diverticulitis, complications or severe attacks when
there's little or no response to medication. Surgery may also be
required in individuals with a single episode of severe bleeding
from diverticulosis or with recurrent episodes of bleeding.
Surgical treatment for diverticulitis removes
the diseased part of the colon, most commonly, the left or
sigmoid colon. Often the colon is hooked up or "anastomosed"
again to the rectum. Complete recovery can be expected. Normal
bowel function usually resumes in about three weeks. In
emergency surgeries, patients may require a temporary colostomy
bag. Patients are encouraged to seek medical attention for
abdominal symptoms early to help avoid complications.