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 Disease Myths Pictures Slideshow: Common Misconceptions

Digestive Disease Myths Pictures Slideshow: Common Misconceptions

What is diverticulitis?

When a diverticulum ruptures and infection sets in around the diverticulum, the condition is called diverticulitis. An individual suffering from diverticulitis often has abdominal pain, abdominal tenderness, colonic obstruction, and an elevated white blood cell count in the blood, and fever.

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 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 diverticula 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 inflammation may be important for the formation of the diverticula and not just the result of them. Continue Reading

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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