Diverticula are bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your intestine. They can range from pea-size to much larger. They are most commonly found in a segment of your large bowel called the ‘sigmoid colon’. Diverticula are very common after the age of 40, and usually do not cause significant health problems.
What is diverticulosis and diverticulitis?
Diverticulosis: The presence of diverticula is called ‘diverticulosis’.
Diverticulitis: If one or more of the diverticula become inflamed of infected, this is called ‘diverticulitis’.
Who is most likely to get diverticulosis or diverticulitis?
It isn’t certain what causes diverticula, but it seems to be associated with not eating enough fibre. Those at most risk are:
- Over the age of 40
- Eat a low fibre diet
What are the symptoms of diverticulosis?
Typically diverticulosis does not cause any significant symptoms. Some people do report:
- Mild abdominal cramps
What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?
- Pain in the left lower side of your abdomen.
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Rectal bleeding
How is diverticulosis diagnosed?
As diverticulosis does not usually cause symptoms, it is most commonly found when a test is done for another reason. The test is usually a colonoscopy or a CT scan.
How is diverticulitis diagnosed?
Diverticulitis is typically diagnosed by a CT scan and / or flexible sigmoidoscopy that are performed to investigate suggestive symptoms.
How is diverticulosis treated?
There is no specific treatment required, but a high-fibre diet is usually recommended to reduce the likelihood of worsening of the condition.
How is diverticulitis treated?
Mild to moderate cases of diverticulitis are usually treated with oral antibiotics, usually either metronidazole, ciprofloxacin, or co-amoxiclav. Taking a low-fibre diet during the acute episode may help. Once you have improved, you can slowly return to a more normal diet including plenty of high-fibre foods.
If the diverticulitis is more severe you may need to be admitted to hospital for intravenous antibiotics, intravenous fluids, and on occasion surgery. Surgery will be considered for diverticulitis if you have a complication such as an abscess, a bowel narrowing (stenosis), or an abnormal connection between the bowel and another organ (fistula).