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Diverticulitis

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Sep.14.2023
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Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis

Body outline showing the stomach and intestines, with a close-up of diverticula on the large intestine.

Diverticulitis happens when poop (stool) and bacteria get trapped in small pouches in the colon called diverticula. These pouches may form if you have a condition called diverticulosis. When the poop and bacteria get trapped, it can cause an infection and inflammation.

Diverticulitis may cause severe stomach pain and diarrhea. It can also lead to tissue damage in your colon. This can cause bleeding or blockage. In some cases, the diverticula may burst (rupture). This can cause infected poop to go into other parts of your abdomen.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by poop getting trapped in the diverticula. This allows bacteria to grow. It can lead to inflammation and infection.

What increases the risk?

You are more likely to get this condition if you have diverticulosis. You are also more at risk if:
  • You are overweight or obese.
  • You do not get enough exercise.
  • You drink alcohol.
  • You smoke.
  • You eat a lot of red meat, such as beef, pork, or lamb.
  • You do not get enough fiber. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
  • You are over 40 years of age.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition may include:
  • Pain and tenderness in the abdomen. This pain is often felt on the left side but may occur in other spots.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Cramping.
  • Bloating.
  • Changes in how often you poop.
  • Blood in your poop.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on your medical history and a physical exam. You may also have tests done to make sure there is nothing else causing your condition. These tests may include:
  • Blood tests.
  • Tests done on your pee (urine).
  • A CT scan of the abdomen.

You may need to have a colonoscopy. This is an exam to look at your whole large intestine. During the exam, a tube is put into the opening of your butt (anus) and then moved into your rectum, colon, and other parts of the large intestine.

This exam is done to look at the diverticula. It can also see if there is something else that may be causing your symptoms.

How is this treated?

Most cases are mild and can be treated at home. You may be told to:
  • Take over-the-counter pain medicine.
  • Only eat and drink clear liquids.
  • Take antibiotics.
  • Rest.

More severe cases may need to be treated at a hospital. Treatment may include:
  • Not eating or drinking.
  • Taking pain medicines.
  • Getting antibiotics through an IV.
  • Getting fluids and nutrition through an IV.
  • Surgery.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider. These include fiber supplements, probiotics, and medicines to soften your poop (stool softeners).
  • If you were prescribed antibiotics, take them as told by your provider. Do not stop using the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
  • Ask your provider if the medicine prescribed to you requires you to avoid driving or using machinery.

Eating and drinking

Pear, berries, artichoke, and beans.
  • Follow the diet told by your provider. You may need to only eat and drink liquids.
  • After your symptoms get better, you may be able to return to a more normal diet. You may be told to eat at least 25 grams (25 g) of fiber each day. Fiber makes it easier to poop. Healthy sources of fiber include:
    • Berries. One cup has 4–8 g of fiber.
    • Beans or lentils. One-half cup has 5–8 g of fiber.
    • Green vegetables. One cup has 4 g of fiber.
  • Avoid eating red meat.

General instructions

  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. These products include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your provider.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Exercise hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your pain gets worse.
  • Your pooping does not go back to normal.
  • Your symptoms do not get better with treatment.
  • Your symptoms get worse all of a sudden.
  • You have a fever.
  • You vomit more than one time.
  • Your poop is bloody, black, or tarry.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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