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What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Most patients with diverticulitis complain of abdominal pain, especially on the left side, ranging from very mild to extremely severe; however, mild pain is uncommon. Diverticulitis is often accompanied by a fever and nausea. Other common symptoms of diverticulitis are diarrhea or difficulty passing a bowel movement.

Diverticula are small outpouchings (pockets) in the intestine that are filled with waste. Two hundred thousand Americans are hospitalized each year with obstruction of diverticula, a condition characterized by crampy abdominal pain, nausea, and fever. In the very worst cases, severe life-threatening infection can result from a rupture.

Common symptoms of diverticulitis include lower abdominal pain, fever, and diverticular bleeding.

Dr. Patricia L. Raymond, MD
Gastroenterologist

How will you sense diverticulitis? Common symptoms include left lower abdominal discomfort, a low-grade fever, and stools that become slender due to swelling of the interior of the colon. Should you develop these symptoms, prompt antibiotic therapy can shorten your illness and prevent development of a serious colon wall abscess.

Dr. William B. Salt, MD
Gastroenterologist

Diverticulosis is very common
About one of every three Americans will develop small pouches (diverticula) of the colon (diverticulosis) by age 60, and two of every three will have diverticulosis by age 85. Most people with diverticulosis don't have any symptoms from the condition unless they develop one of two complications: either rectal bleeding or inflammation of a portion of the colon, called diverticulitis.

Abdominal pain is the main symptom
Diverticulitis is inflammation that is often mild and heals without treatment, but it can be potentially serious and require antibiotics, hospitalization, and sometimes surgery. The main symptom of diverticulitis is pain in the lower left side of the abdomen (the left lower quadrant). This is where the sigmoid colon is located, which is where diverticulitis usually occurs.

The pain can be very sudden in onset or build in intensity over several hours. When diverticulitis is more serious, the pain is intense and can be accompanied by fever, soreness to the touch (tenderness) in the left lower quadrant of the belly, constipation, and vomiting. Sometimes, a little bright red blood can be seen in the stool, but passing pure blood out of the rectum is quite unsual with diverticulitis. Occasionally, abscess and chronic inflammation can result in chronic pain that persists unless treated. If diverticulitis results in scar tissue and narrowing of the sigmoid colon, then constipation associated with pain can develop.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.