Diverticulosis (cont.)

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What are diverticulitis symptoms?

Most patients with diverticulosis have few or no symptoms. The diverticulosis in these individuals is found incidentally during tests for other intestinal problems. It has been thought s many as 20% of individuals with diverticulosis will develop symptoms related to diverticulosis, primarily diverticulitis; however, the most recent study suggests that the incidence is closer to 5%.

The most common signs and symptoms of diverticulitis include:

  • Abdominal pain (left lower abdomen)
  • Abdominal tenderness (left lower abdomen)
  • Fever
  • Constipation or, sometimes, diarrhea.

What causes diverticula, and how do diverticula form?

The muscular wall of the colon grows thicker with age, although the cause of this thickening is unclear. It may reflect the increasing pressures required by the colon to eliminate feces. For example, a diet low in fiber can lead to small, hard stools which are difficult to pass and which require increased pressure to pass. The lack of fiber and small stools also may allow segments of the colon to close off from the rest of the colon when the colonic muscle in the segment contracts. The pressure in these closed-off segments may become high since the increased pressure cannot dissipate to the rest of the colon. Over time, high pressures in the colon push the inner intestinal lining outward (herniation) through weak areas in the muscular walls. These pouches or sacs that develop are called diverticula.

Lack of fiber in the diet has been thought to be considered the most likely cause of diverticula, and there is a good correlation among societies around the world between the amount of fiber in the diet and the prevalence of diverticula. Nevertheless, studies have not found similar correlations between fiber and diverticuli within individual societies. Many people with diverticular disease have excessive thickening of the muscular wall of the colon where the diverticula form. The muscle also contracts more strongly. These abnormalities of the muscle may be contributing factors in the formation of diverticula. Microscopic examination of the edges of the diverticula show signs of inflammation, and it has been suggested that there may be an inflammatory component to the formation of the diverticula.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2014

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