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Diverticulitis – causes, symptoms, risk factors and complications

Diverticula are small and bulging pouches which can form in the lining of the digestive system. They are most often found in colon (this is the lower part of the large intestine). Diverticula are common, especially after age 40 and seldom can they cause problems  [1]. But there are some cases when one or more of the pouches can become infected or inflamed. This is a condition which is known as diverticulitis. This condition can cause marked change in your bowel habits, nausea, fever and abdominal pain. The mild diverticulitis can be treated with antibiotics, changes in your diet and rest. The severe and recurring diverticulitis may require surgery. The diverticulitis was a rare condition before the 20th century but nowadays this is one of the most common health problems in Western countries [2,3]. This is a group of conditions which can affect the digestive tract and the most serious type of diverticular disease is the diverticulitis. This condition needs treatment because it is known that it can cause symptoms and in many cases it can lead to serious health complications. You should know that diverticula themselves can be harmless. If your diverticula are not inflamed or infected, then you have condition known as diverticulosis. In the most cases this condition does not cause symptoms and it does not need any kind of treatment.  When the diverticulosis is causing symptoms, then this is called SUDD (symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease). This condition can cause symptoms which are similar to those of IBD (irritable bowel syndrome) such as bloating and abdominal pain. There are some studies in which are shown that only 10 – 20% of people who have this condition will progress to SUDD.

Symptoms of diverticulitis

Here are signs and symptoms of diverticulitis:

  • Constipation or less commonly diarrhea
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain which may be constant and persist for several days. Pain is usually felt in the lower left side of the abdomen but it may happen on the right, especially in people of Asian descent.

Causes for diverticulitis: Usually, diverticula is happening when the naturally weak place in your colon are giving way under pressure. This is causing marble – sized pouches to protrude through the colon wall. Diverticulitis is happening when diverticula tear which is resulting in infection or inflammation or both. [4]


Risk factors for diverticulitis

There are some factors which can increase your risk of developing diverticulitis such as

  • Certain medications: There are several drugs which are associated with an increased risk of developing diverticulitis, including opiates, steroids and nonsteroidal anti – inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil, others) and naproxen (Aleve). [5]
  • Diet high in animal fat and low in fiber: This is thought that could increase the risk of developing diverticulitis but the role of the low fiber alone is not clear. [5]
  • Lack of exercise: There are some studies in which is shown that vigorous exercises can lower your risk of developing diverticulitis.
  • Smoking: There are some studies in which are said that people who smoke cigarettes are having increased chances of developing diverticulitis compared to people who are not smokers. [5]
  • Obesity: If you are seriously overweight, then this can increase your chances of developing diverticulitis. Also it is known fact that the morbid obesity can increase the risk of needing more – invasive treatments for diverticulitis.
  • Aging: As we are getting older, we are having increased chances of developing diverticulitis. [5]

Complications: There are about 25% of people who have acute diverticulitis and who can develop complications and these complications [6] include:

  • Peritonitis, which can happen if the infected or inflamed pouch ruptures, spilling intestinal contents in the abdominal cavity. You should know that the peritonitis is a medical emergency case and this needs immediate care.
  • An abnormal passageway (fistula) between sections of bowel or the bowel and bladder.
  • A blockage in your colon or small intestine caused by scarring.
  • An abscess which can happen when the pus collects in the pouch.


[1] Malcom K. Genome-wide study identifies genes linked to diverticular disease. M Health Lab. 2018. Retrieved from

[2] Munie ST, Nalamati SPM. Epidemiology and pathophysiology of diverticular disease. Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery. 2018;31(4):209–13.

[3] Delvaux M. Diverticular disease of the colon in Europe: epidemiology, impact on citizen health and prevention. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2003;18(s3):71-4.

[4] Scarpignato C, Barbara G, Lanas A, et al. Management of colonic diverticular disease in the third millennium: Highlights from a symposium held during the United European Gastroenterology Week 2017. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. 2018.

[5] Böhm SK. Risk factors for diverticulosis, diverticulitis, diverticular perforation, and bleeding: A plea for more subtle history taking. Visceral Medicine. 2015;31(2):89-94.

[6] Pisanu A, Vacca V, Reccia I, et al. Acute diverticulitis in the young: The same disease in a different patient. Gastroenterology Research and Practice. 2013;2013:867961.

Pardhan Singh
Pardhan Singh
A seasoned natural therapist with degree in Ayurvedic Medicine (BAMS) successful in treating various diseases through Ayurvedic treatments. You can contact Pradhan at [email protected]


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