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When small pouches form inside your colon, the condition is called diverticulosis. These pouches usually don’t cause problems unless they get large enough to trap feces, which can result in irritation or infection. When an infection occurs, this is called diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can be mild and treated with medications under a doctor’s supervision or severe enough that you need to spend time in the hospital or even have surgery.
Diverticulitis shares symptoms with many other conditions. The most common symptom is sudden, severe pain near the lower left side of your abdomen. This pain may change over time, or you may feel it on your right side. Other signs of diverticulitis can be constipation, diarrhea, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting.
Your doctor will give you a treatment plan that matches your symptoms. This might be as simple as rest, antibiotics and a liquid diet for a few days. If you have severe symptoms, you may need a hospital stay, and in some cases, surgery.
To figure out if you have diverticulitis, your doctor will talk with you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. Next you may need one or more tests, such as a blood test, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, a barium enema or a colonoscopy. Doctors only diagnose diverticulitis after they rule out other illnesses that could cause the same symptoms.
Eating a diet with plenty of fiber may help prevent diverticulitis. You get fiber when you eat fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods. Be sure to talk with your doctor about how much fiber you need in your diet, and drink plenty of water or other liquids. Exercising and keeping your weight in a healthy range are also good choices to help prevent diverticulitis.
Learn more about diverticulitis from the American Academy of Family Physicians.
1. National Institutes of Health website. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diverticulosis-diverticulitis. Accessed July 16, 2019.
2. Familydoctor.org, American Academy of Family Physicians website. https://familydoctor.org/condition/diverticular-disease/?adfree=true. Accessed July 16, 2019.
3. Mayo Clinic website. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diverticulitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371758. Accessed July 16, 2019.