Diverticulitis is a complication of diverticulosis, a disease that occurs when tiny pouches develop within weak parts of your colon wall. In about 5% of cases of diverticulosis, one or more of the affected diverticula grow seriously inflamed or infected, causing serious symptoms.
What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis can cause severe pain, usually centered in your lower left abdomen. In addition, you may experience extreme abdominal tenderness and a fever.
Diverticulitis can lead to serious complications like:
- Diverticular bleeding: Bleeding from the rectum
- Abscess: Pocket of infected pus outside the colon wall
- Stricture: Scar tissue buildup that narrows the colon
- Fistula: An abnormal tunnel between the bowel and another organ
- Perforation: A hole through the colon, leaking stool into the abdomen
Each of these complications can cause additional gastrointestinal symptoms. For example, strictures can cause constipation, while fistulas and abscesses can cause anal leakage. Bowel perforation is a serious complication that can cause sudden severe pain, infection, and even death if untreated.
How is diverticulitis treated?
Diverticulitis treatment requires antibiotics if you have an infection. Most people need a few days of a liquid diet, which allows your bowel time to recover from the inflammation. If you have a more serious case of diverticulitis, particularly with complications, you may be prescribed intravenous (IV) antibiotics or have an abscess drained.
If you experience diverticulitis complications, including bowel obstruction, major abscess, fistula, or perforation, you’re likely to need surgery. The team may also recommend surgery for people who may recurrent diverticulitis episodes over time or for people with a weak immune system.
Diverticulitis is a very treatable condition, and it’s also largely preventable. If you’re diagnosed with diverticulosis, the team can help you take steps to avoid developing diverticulitis, such as increasing dietary fiber.