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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:



(Acute Diverticulitis; Acute Colonic Diverticulitis)


Diverticulitis is the swelling and infection of diverticula. These are small pouches that can form in the wall of the large intestine. When serious, the pouches can burst and cause life-threatening problems.


Infected pouches along the colon.

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This problem happens when the small pouches tear or become blocked by stool.

Risk Factors

Diverticulitis is more common in older adults.

Things that may raise the risk of pouches forming are:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Eating a low-fiber diet—fiber softens stools and makes them pass more easily
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin use
  • Family members who have diverticulitis


Symptoms can come on suddenly. They vary from person to person and may include:

  • Pain in the lower-left part of the belly
  • Cramping
  • A swollen and hard belly
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of hunger
  • Fever or chills
  • Loose stools or problems passing stool
  • Bleeding from the rectum


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Blood, urine, and stool tests may also be done.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:


The goal is to treat the infection and ease symptoms. Treatment varies based on how severe the condition is. People with complications may need to stay in the hospital.

Options are:

  • IV fluids or a clear liquid diet to rest the bowel
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Pain relievers
    • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • Draining an infected abscess
  • Colectomy—surgery to remove the diseased part of the colon

Increasing dietary fiber may prevent symptoms from returning in some people.


The risk of this problem may be lowered by lifestyle changes, such as:





  • Diverticular disease. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.fascrs.org/patients/disease-condition/diverticular-disease.
  • Diverticular disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diverticulosis-diverticulitis.
  • Diverticulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/diverticulitis.
  • Ellison DL. Acute diverticulitis management. Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am. 2018;30(1):67-74.
  • 7/31/2018 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/condition/diverticulitis: Ma W, Jovani M, et al. Association between obesity and weight change and risk of diverticulitis in women. Gastroenterology. 2018;155(1):58-66.e4.


  • Mark D. Arredondo, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.