Diverticulitis is a disease that occurs when small pouches in the colon bulge outward and become infected or inflamed. These pouches are called diverticula, and the condition of having diverticula is called diverticulosis. Nearly half of all Americans over age 60, and almost everyone over age 80, have diverticulosis.


Risk Factors and Prevention

There are several things you can do to avoid developing diverticulitis:
· eat foods high in fiber
· eat regular meals
· drink plenty of liquids
· exercise daily
· take care of the urge for a bowel movement promptly, and
· tell your doctor about any significant changes in bowel habits.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms may include mild cramps, bloating, and constipation.  To know whether a person has diverticulitis, a doctor needs to take a medical history and perform a physical examination.

When taking a medical history, the doctor may ask about bowel habits, symptoms, pain, diet, and medications. The physical exam usually involves a digital rectal exam. To perform this test, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to detect tenderness, blockage, or blood. The doctor may check stool for signs of bleeding and test blood for signs of infection. The doctor may also order x-rays or other tests such as a sigmoidoscopy.



People who have diverticulosis and no symptoms usually need no treatment. People with diverticulitis may be treated with bed rest, a low-fiber (residue) diet, pain relievers, antibiotics, and careful monitoring. They may need hospitalization and, in some cases, surgery.

Increasing the amount of fiber in the diet may reduce symptoms of diverticulosis and prevent complications such as diverticulitis. Fiber keeps stool soft and lowers pressure inside the colon so that bowel contents can move through easily. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day.

The doctor may also recommend drinking a fiber product such as Citrucel or Metamucil once a day. These products are mixed with water and provide about 4 to 6 grams of fiber for an 8-ounce glass.

Until recently, many doctors suggested avoiding foods with small seeds such as tomatoes or strawberries because they believed that particles could lodge in the diverticula and cause inflammation. However, this is now a controversial point and no evidence supports this recommendation.

If cramps, bloating, and constipation are problems, the doctor may prescribe a short course of pain medication. However, many medications affect emptying of the colon causing constipation, an undesirable side effect for people with diverticulosis.

Information gathered from:
St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital
6720 Bertner Ave.,
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 791-1000

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3570

Email me at brendarion at cfl.rr.com

© 1998 - 2004 Brenda "Rion" Sewell