Diverticulosis occurs when small pockets or pouches (diverticula) that have formed within the muscle wall of the large intestine or colon. Diverticulitis is when diverticula become infected and/or inflammation occurs. 

  • Diet and older age are the most common risk factors 
  • Diverticulosis is often asymptomatic and many individuals are unaware they have them. 

Symptoms of diverticulosis include

  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Constipation and diarrhoea
  • Flatulence
  • Blood in faeces
  • Anaemia as a result of bleeding

Symptoms of diverticulitis include

  • Sharp pain, often located at a specific point 
  • Fever
  • Bloating
  • Distended abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting

Complications of diverticular disease

  • Abscess
  • Perforation – a weakened pocket of bowel wall may rupture. This is considered a medical emergency and immediate treatment is required. 
  • Peritonitis – Perforation can cause an infection within the lining of the abdominal cavity and surrounding organs
  • Haemorrhage 

Diagnosis of diverticular disease

  • Medical history – including dietary habits
  • Physical examination – including rectal examination
  • Colonoscopy
  • Barium enema – a special dye is flushed into the bowel via the anus and x-rays are taken
  • CT scan
  • Blood tests 
  • Stool tests 

Treatment for diverticulosis

  • Treatment is centred around managing symptoms
  • Switch in the diet with an emphasis on adequate soluble fibre intake. Fibre aids a healthy bowel and can eliminate or reduce the severity of symptoms. 
  • Some foods such as nuts, legumes and corn can aggravate diverticulosis and should be eliminated in the diet of some individuals. 
  • Short-term use of laxatives to manage and prevent constipation may be used. The use of laxatives should be guided by a medical professional. 

Treatment for diverticulitis

Often a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention and usually involves a hospital admission. Mild attacks can be treated at home but an assessment from a qualified professional (GP) is advised. Treatment may include: 

  • Treatment may include:
    • No eating or drinking
    • Antibiotics
    • Pain-relieving medication
    • Surgery 
    • Colostomy
    • The long-term use of a mild antibiotic. These are used to help prevent the likelihood of future attacks. 

Self-care suggestions

  • Increase your daily intake of green vegetables. Introduce fibre gradually. A sudden increase in fibre can cause stomach and abdominal upsets such as bloating and flatulence. 
  • Fibre supplements such as psyllium/Metamucil may be helpful for those struggling to reach fibre intake. 
  • Keep hydrated
  • Exercise regularly to encourage bowel movements

diverticulitis