Diagnosis of Diverticular Disease
How do doctors diagnose diverticular disease?
To diagnose diverticular disease, doctors review your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order tests.
In some cases, doctors may notice pouches in the colon wall while performing tests, such as
x-rays or a colonoscopy, for another reason. If you have pouches in the wall of your colon but don’t have related symptoms, your doctor may diagnose diverticulosis rather than diverticular disease.
Your doctor will ask about your medical history, including your symptoms, bowel movement patterns, what you eat and drink, medical conditions, and what medicines you take.
During a physical exam, your doctor may
- check your blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature
- press on your abdomen to feel for tenderness or masses
- use a stethoscope to listen to sounds within your abdomen
The physical exam may also include a digital rectal exam.
What tests do doctors use to diagnose diverticular disease?
Doctors may order blood tests, a stool test, imaging tests, and a colonoscopy to help diagnose diverticular disease.
Doctors may order a stool test to help find out if you have diverticular disease or another health problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Your doctor will give you a container for catching and holding a stool sample. You will receive instructions on where to send or take the kit for testing.
Doctors typically diagnose diverticular disease with imaging tests, such as
- computed tomography (CT), which uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to create images
- ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create an image of your organs
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which takes pictures of your body’s internal organs and soft tissues without using x-rays
Doctors may recommend a colonoscopy to confirm a diagnosis of diverticular disease and rule out other conditions, such as cancer. Doctors may also order a colonoscopy to see and treat diverticular bleeding.
During a colonoscopy, doctors use a colonoscope or scope—a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and a tiny camera on one end—to view the lining of the rectum and colon.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.