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What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a medical condition that occurs when small, bulging pouches (diverticula) in the lining of the digestive system, usually in the large intestine or colon, become infected or inflamed.

The exact cause of diverticulitis is not known, but it can be related to a diet low in fiber, which leads to hard, compacted stools that can put pressure on the colon wall and cause small pouches to form.

What are the risk factors for diverticulitis?

There are several risk factors for diverticulitis, including:

  • Age: The risk of developing diverticulitis increases with age, and it is most commonly diagnosed in people over 40.
  • Diet: A diet low in fiber and high in processed foods can increase the risk of diverticulitis. This type of diet can lead to constipation, which puts pressure on the colon and increases the likelihood of diverticula forming.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of diverticulitis.
  • Lack of exercise: A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to constipation and increase the risk of diverticulitis.
  • Smoking: Smoking can damage the lining of the colon and increase the risk of diverticulitis.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroids, can increase the risk of diverticulitis.
  • Genetics: There may be a genetic component to the development of diverticulitis, as it tends to run in families.

What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?

  • Abdominal pain, often in the lower left side of the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blood in the stool, which may indicate a more severe case of diverticulitis


Symptoms of diverticulitis can be similar to those of other gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a primary care provider today.


How to diagnose diverticulitis

A physician can diagnose diverticulitis through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. Common steps involved in the diagnosis of diverticulitis include:

  • Medical history: Your provider will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and other relevant information.
  • Physical examination: Your provider will perform a physical exam, which may involve palpating your abdomen for tenderness, checking your temperature, and taking your blood pressure.
  • Blood tests: Your physician may order blood tests to check for signs of infection or inflammation.
    • A CT scan uses X-rays and computer technology to create detailed images of your abdomen.
    • An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your organs.
    • An MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of your internal organs.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests can help diagnose diverticulitis and determine its severity. These may include:
  • Other tests: In some cases, your physician may perform additional tests, such as a colonoscopy, to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

Treatment for diverticulitis

The treatment of diverticulitis depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may be treated with antibiotics and a low-fiber diet, while severe cases may require hospitalization and possibly surgery. 

  • Antibiotics: A physician may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection that causes diverticulitis, typically for 7-10 days.
  • Pain relief: A provider may also prescribe pain relief medication to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with diverticulitis.
  • Rest and a liquid or low-fiber diet: During an acute episode of diverticulitis, your provider may recommend a period of rest and a liquid or low-fiber diet to help your digestive system heal. Gradually, you may be able to increase the amount of fiber in your diet.
  • Hospitalization: If you have severe diverticulitis, a physician may need to admit you to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics, pain management, and close monitoring.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a portion of the colon affected by diverticulitis. Surgery may be necessary if you have recurring episodes of diverticulitis, complications such as abscesses or fistulas, or a blockage or perforation in your colon.


Following your provider's advice and treatment plan is important to help manage diverticulitis and prevent complications. In addition, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, including regular exercise and hydration, may help reduce the risk of developing diverticulitis or experiencing recurring episodes.

Our experienced, board-certified gastroenterologists serve patients throughout the Greater Houston area. No matter where you live or which location you choose, you can trust that we will provide the same patient-centered standards of quality care to everyone.

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