Symptoms & Causes of Diverticular Disease

What are the symptoms of diverticulosis?

Most people with diverticulosis do not have symptoms. If your diverticulosis causes symptoms, they may include

Other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcers, cause similar symptoms, so these symptoms may not mean you have diverticulosis. If you have these symptoms, see your doctor.

A health care professional talking with a patient in his office.
If you have symptoms such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea, or pain in your lower abdomen, see your doctor.

If you have diverticulosis and develop diverticular bleeding or diverticulitis, these conditions also cause symptoms.

What are the symptoms of diverticular bleeding?

In most cases, when you have diverticular bleeding, you will suddenly have a large amount of red or maroon-colored blood in your stool.

Diverticular bleeding may also cause dizziness or light-headedness, or weakness. See your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.

What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?

When you have diverticulitis, the inflamed pouches most often cause pain in the lower left side of your abdomen. The pain is usually severe and comes on suddenly, though it can also be mild and get worse over several days. The intensity of the pain can change over time.

Diverticulitis may also cause

What causes diverticulosis and diverticulitis?

Experts are not sure what causes diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Researchers are studying several factors that may play a role in causing these conditions.

Fiber

For more than 50 years, experts thought that following a low-fiber diet led to diverticulosis. However, recent research has found that a low-fiber diet may not play a role. This study also found that a high-fiber diet with more frequent bowel movements may be linked with a greater chance of having diverticulosis.4 Talk with your doctor about how much fiber you should include in your diet.

Genes

Some studies suggest that genes may make some people more likely to develop diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Experts are still studying the role genes play in causing these conditions.

Other factors

Studies have found links between diverticular disease—diverticulosis that causes symptoms or problems such as diverticular bleeding or diverticulitis—and the following factors:

Diverticulitis may begin when bacteria or stool get caught in a pouch in your colon. A decrease in healthy bacteria and an increase in disease-causing bacteria in your colon may also lead to diverticulitis.

References

May 2016
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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. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.