It is common to have small pouches in the lining of the colon that bulge outward through weak spots. These pouches are called diverticula. The condition of having diverticula is called diverticulosis. About half of people who are 60 and older have diverticulosis. Diverticulosis usually develops when naturally weak places in your colon give way under pressure. This causes pouches, around the size of a marble, to push through the colon wall. Diverticulosis does not cause any pain or symptoms. Diverticulitis occurs when one or more diverticula becomes inflamed or infected. Ten to 25 percent of people who have diverticulosis get diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can cause symptoms of severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and change in bowel habits.
It is unclear how diverticula become inflamed or infected. In the past, experts thought that nuts, seeds, popcorn and corn could get trapped in the diverticula and cause inflammation and infection that resulted in diverticulitis. Recent research has shown that these foods do not increase the risk of getting diverticulitis. Some known risk factors that have been associated with developing diverticulitis are: aging, too little fiber, lack or exercise, obesity, and smoking.
To diagnose diverticulitis your physician will examine your abdomen for tenderness, perform blood tests to check your white blood cells for signs of infection, or possibly order a CT scan to help visualize the diverticula that are inflamed or infected. If you doctor determines that you do have diverticulitis your treatment will be determined by the severity of your signs and symptoms. Most of the time diverticulitis can be treated at home by taking antibiotics to treat the infection, getting plenty of rest, and consuming a liquid diet for a few days so that the infection can heal. If you have a severe attack you may require hospitalization or surgery.