Diverticula are balloon-like pouches that develop in the weak points of the bowel wall, usually the colon. When food gets trapped in these pockets, it can cause discomfort, diarrhea and/or constipation. Diverticulitis is a complication of Diverticulosis that occurs when a tiny hole in a diverticulum or pocket allows bacteria in the colon to seep through its wall and cause inflammation or infection outside the colon.
In the majority of cases, uncomplicated diverticulitis goes away on its own within days. In approximately 5% of cases, it can be severe with a massive infection or rupture of the bowel. Both conditions may be treated successfully through diet, medication and/or surgery.
Approximately half of all Americans ages 60-80 have diverticulosis which can be painful and may require surgery. It is more prevalent in patients over 80.
Diverticula are commonly detected during a colonoscopy and may be signaled by either abdominal cramping that goes away after a bowel movement or passing gas or by red blood in bowel movements. Diverticulitis symptoms are more noticeable and can include severe abdominal pain and fever. To prevent diverticulosis, individuals with diverticula should follow a high fiber diet which means more fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans and less red meat.