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A high-fibre diet can help prevent diverticular disease, including diverticulosis and diverticulitis.

A high-fibre diet can help prevent diverticular disease, including diverticulosis and diverticulitis.
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Diverticular disease - diverticulitis and diverticulosis

2-minute read

Diverticular disease is a condition where small bulges or pockets form in the wall of the large intestine. These pockets are called diverticula and often do not cause any symptoms. Diverticular disease is linked to a low-fibre diet, and is more common as people age.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis occurs when the diverticula become inflamed or infected, caused by bacteria trapped inside one of the bulges. This can lead to complications, such as an abscess next to the intestine.

Diverticulitis symptoms

The most common symptom of diverticulitis is pain, which can be mild or severe, on the lower left-hand side of the abdomen.

Other symptoms may include:

The symptoms may be mild to severe, depending on the extent of the infection and complications. Other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, have similar symptoms. See your doctor if you have such symptoms.

See your doctor immediately if you have:

  • very severe abdominal pain
  • a fever
  • start vomiting
  • feel very unwell
  • have blood in your poo

Diverticulitis diagnosis

To diagnose diverticulitis, your doctor will talk to you and examine you. You may need a colonoscopy, a barium enema or a CT scan of your abdomen.

Diverticulitis treatment

If you have mild diverticulitis, you may be treated at home with antibiotics, and if necessary, mild painkillers. You may also be advised to have a low-fibre or fluid-only diet, to rest the bowel during recovery.

If you have severe diverticulitis, you may need to be admitted into hospital and given antibiotics and fluids through your vein, and stronger painkillers. Most people improve with treatment. However, people who do not improve with treatment or who develop rare complications may require surgery.

Diverticulosis

People who have diverticula which are not swollen or infected are said to have diverticulosis. Many people with diverticulosis do not experience any discomfort or symptoms.

However, some people may have symptoms such as mild cramps, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea. If you have such symptoms, you should see your doctor. Diverticulosis is usually diagnosed during bowel cancer screening or screening for gut problems .

Diverticular disease prevention

Although the cause of diverticulosis or diverticulitis is unknown, having a low-fibre diet increases your chances of developing diverticular disease. A high-fibre diet helps to prevent constipation and formation of diverticula. Exercising regularly and drinking enough water (up to 8 cups a day) are also recommended.

Last reviewed: February 2018

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