Diverticulosis

One of your body’s most important systems is your digestive tract. Sometimes, small pouches, or sacs, can develop inside the lower portion of your digestive tract. This can happen when the inside layer pushes out through a weak spot. A single pouch is a diverticulum. If you have many pouches, the condition is called diverticulosis.

These pouches can form anywhere along your lower digestive tract. Most often, they’re on the left side of the large intestine. This is where stool forms before you have a bowel movement.

Causes

Doctors don’t know exactly why people get diverticulosis. It is more common as we get older. It’s rare under age 40, but more common over age 60.

Not eating enough fiber through fruits, vegetables, and grains over many years may be one important cause. We know that diverticulosis is not common in parts of the world where people get lots of fiber in their diet. In America, diverticulosis became more common as we started eating less fiber. However, new evidence suggests that a diet low in fiber may not be the reason why some individuals develop diverticulosis. Nonetheless, fruits, vegetables and grains are an important part of a healthful diet.

Your genes may also play a role, too. Diverticulosis runs in families. Not getting enough physical activity may also increase your risk.

Symptoms

Most people with diverticulosis don’t have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may have:

  • Crampy lower belly pain, especially on the left side
  • Bloating, or
  • A change in bowel habits, especially constipation

If you have chronic symptoms, you should visit your health care provider.

Diagnosis

Since diverticulosis usually has no symptoms, it may not be found until you’re being examined for another problem. It may be discovered during a screening test called a colonoscopy, which is a screening test for colon cancer.

Tests to diagnose diverticulosis include:

  • A barium enema, or a special x-ray of the large intestine including the colon and rectum.
  • A CT scan, which is a series of computer guided X-rays of the colon, or
  • An abdominal ultrasound, where sound waves are sent toward the colon to create a picture on a video monitor.

Treatment

If you have symptoms, your health care provider may suggest increasing the amount of fiber in your diet. A good intake of fiber is about 35 grams per day. Your health care provider may also suggest a fiber supplement. Fiber supplements that are found over-the-counter help stools become softer and easier to pass.

What to do

If you have diverticulosis, let your health care provider know about any symptoms, such as constipation, bloating, or cramping. Make sure you are getting enough fiber, fluids, and exercise.

The most common problem with diverticulosis is getting inflammation in one or more of the pouches. This condition is called diverticulitis, and can be painful. Symptoms may include abdominal pain and fever. Always let your doctor know about these symptoms so that you can get prompt treatment.

What We Have Learned

Most people with diverticulosis report many distinct symptoms.
True or False
The answer is False

Diverticulosis describes the formation of small pouches along the lower digestive tract.
True or False
The answer is True

Diverticulosis can get worse when one or more of the pouches get inflamed, which is called Diverticulitis.
True or False
The answer is True