What is diverticulitis?

Formation of diverticula – Diverticulitis

Approximately 10 percent of American adults over age forty have diverticulosis (diverticulitis). This is a condition in which the lining of the colon (and, rarely, the stomach or the small intestine) bulges outward. The bulges, or pouches (called diverticula), can be seen with an X-ray of the colon.


As one gets older, the formation of diverticula becomes much more common. About half of Americans older than age sixty have diverticulosis. The most common site for diverticula is the sigmoid colon, the lower part of the large intestine.

People with diverticulosis do not usually experience any symptoms and are unaware that they have this condition.

Rarely, diverticula can become infected from bacteria, leading to symptoms such as fever, cramping pain (especially on the lower left side of the abdomen), nausea, and changes in bowel habits.

This is known as diverticulitis. In more serious cases, rectal bleeding, abdominal abscess, and perforation may result, requiring antibiotics and emergency surgery. After an initial episode of diverticulitis, the risk of recurrence symptoms ranges from 7 to 45 percent.

The emergence of diverticular disease seems to correlate with the introduction of processed foods in the American diet. Low fiber intake leads to constipation and high pressure in the colon wall, which may explain the formation of diverticula.

diverticulitis