How to Diagnose Diverticular Disease

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at

Diverticulitis is a condition in which diverticuli in the colon rupture. The rupture results in infection in the tissues which surround the colon. The colon is the large intestine and is a long tube like striation that stores and then eliminates waste material. As a person gets older, pressure within the colon causes bulging pockets of tissue, or sacs, that push out from the colon walls. A small bulging sac pushing outward from the colon wall is called a diverticulum. More than one bulging sac is referred to as diverticula. Diverticula can occur throughout the colon, but most are common near the end of the left colon. This is referred to as the sigmoid colon. The condition of having these diverticula in the colon is called diverticulosis.


A patient with diverticulosis may have few, if any, symptoms. When a diverticulum becomes infected and ruptures, the condition is called diverticulitis. A patient suffering from diverticulitis experiences abdominal pain and tenderness, often accompanied by fever. Bleeding which originates from a diverticulum is called diverticulitis bleeding. Diverticular disease is common in the Western areas of the world, but is extremely rare in areas such as Asia and Africa. Diverticular disease increases with age and is uncommon before the age of forty. Most patients with diverticulitis develop bleeding, infection, constipation, abdominal cramps, and occasionally, colon obstruction.


The muscular wall of the colon grows thicker with age. Thickening of the colon wall may determine the increasing pressures required by the colon to eliminate waste. A diet which is low in fiber can lead to small and hard stools which are difficult to pass. Over time, intense contractions in the colon push the inner intestinal lining outwards, causing a hernia. These pouches or sacs that develop are called diverticula. Diverticular bleeding occurs when stool erodes into a blood vessel at the base of a diverticulum.


Most patients with diverticulosis have few, if any, symptoms. The diverticulosis condition is found incidentally during tests which are run for other intestinal problems. Over twenty percent of patients suffering with diverticulosis condition will develop symptoms related to diverticulosis. The most common symptoms of biventricular disease include abdominal cramping, constipation, bloating, and diarrhea. These symptoms are directly related to difficulty of passing stool along the left colon which has been narrowed by diverticulosis disease.


More serious complications include diverticulitis, abscess in the pelvis, colon obstruction, and bacterial peritonitis, plus bleeding in the colon. A diverticulum can become infected with bacteria and ruptures, causing diverticulitis. Fever, tenderness, and pain of the lower left abdomen are common symptoms. Constipation or diarrhea may also occur. A collection of pus can develop around the inflamed diverticulum, which leads to the formation of an abscess, usually in the pelvis. On rare occasions, the inflamed diverticula can erode into the urinary bladder, which causes a bladder infection and passing of gas during urination. Inflammation of the colon may also lead to bowel obstruction. On rare occasions, a diverticulum ruptures freely into the abdominal cavity causing life threatening infection caused peritonitis.

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