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 Diverticular/Diverticulitis?
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.
Are the Symptons?
The major symptoms of diverticular disease are abdominal pain (usually in the
lower left abdomen), diarrhea, cramps, alteration of bowel habit and occasionally,
severe rectal bleeding. These symptoms occur in a small percentage of patients
with the condition and are sometimes difficult to distinguish from Irritable
Diverticulitis - an infection of the diverticula - may cause one or more of
the following symptoms: pain, chills, fever and change in bowel habits. More
intense symptoms are associated with serious complications such as perforation,
abscess or fistula formation.
What Is the Cause of Diveticular Disease?
Indications are that a low-fiber diet over the years creates increased colon
pressure and results in pockets or diverticula.
How Is Diverticular Disease Treated?
Diverticulosis and diverticular disease are usually treated by diet and occasionally,
medications to help control pain, cramps and changes in bowel habits. Increasing
the amount of dietary fiber (grains, legumes, vegetables, etc.) - and sometimes
restricting certain foods reduces the pressures in the colon, and complications
are less likely to arise.
Diverticulitis requires more intense management. Mild cases may be managed
without hospitalization, but this is a decision made by your physician. Treatment
usually consists of oral antibiotics, dietary restrictions and possibly stool
softeners. Severe cases require hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics
and strict dietary restraints. Most acute attacks can be relieved with such
Surgery is reserved for recurrent episodes, complications or severe attacks
when there's little or no response to medication.
In surgery, usually part of the colon - commonly the left or sigmoid colon
- is removed and 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.
Reference: American Society
of Colon and Rectal Surgeons