Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis, Diverticular Disease)

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

What is diverticulosis?

The colon (large intestine or large bowel) is a long tube-like structure approximately 6 feet in length that stores and then eliminates waste material left over after digestion of food in the small intestine takes place. It is thought that pressure within the colon causes bulging pockets of tissue (sacs) that push out from the colonic walls as a person ages. A small bulging sac pushing outward from the colon wall is called a diverticulum. More than one bulging sac is referred to in the plural as diverticula. Diverticula can occur throughout the colon but are most common near the end of the left colon, referred to as the sigmoid colon, in Western countries. In Asia, the diverticula occur mostly on the right side of the colon. The condition of having these diverticula in the colon is called diverticulosis.

Diverticula are common in the Western world but are rare in areas such as Asia and Africa. Diverticula increase with age. They are uncommon before the age of 40, but are seen in more than 74% of people over the age of 80 years in the U.S. A person with diverticulosis usually has few or no symptoms. The most common symptoms associated with diverticulosis are abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. In some of these patients the symptoms may be due to the concomitant presence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or abnormalities in the function of the muscles of the sigmoid colon (in which case it is referred to as diverticular disease); simple diverticula should cause no symptoms. Occasionally, bleeding originates from a diverticulum, and it is referred to as diverticular bleeding.

Picture of Diverticular Disease
Picture of Diverticular Disease
Reviewed on 12/28/2015
References
REFERENCES:

Anne F. Peery and Robert S. Sandler. Diverticular Disease: Reconsidering Conventional Wisdom. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;11:1532-1537.

Choosemyplate.gov. "Grains Gallery."
<http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgallery-grains>

Eatforhealth.gov. "Vegetables and Legumes/Beans."
<https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups/vegetables-and-legumes-beans>

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