10 Symptoms of Diverticulitis

The human intestinal tract is divided into two sections: the small and large intestine. The large intestine is also referred to as the colon. The typically painless condition of diverticulosis occurs when pockets known as diverticula are formed in the wall of the colon. Diverticula are usually found in areas where the colon’s outer wall has become weakened, allowing the inner wall to bulge through and form a pocket. Research has not been able to pinpoint any one cause for these diverticula to form, though a diet low in fiber is commonly thought to be a significant contributor.

The condition known as diverticulitis occurs when these diverticula become infected or inflamed. Many people with diverticulosis may not be aware of its presence, but diverticulitis is much more difficult to overlook. Mild to severe pain and various digestive problems are the hallmarks of this condition. The severity of a case of diverticulitis determines the appropriate treatment plan. A mild case is almost always treated with an antibiotic and diet changes, while a more severe case can require hospitalization or even surgery.

All or some of the following signs of diverticulitis may be present in an individual and should be evaluated by a physician.

1. Abdominal Pain

Lower abdominal pain is the most common symptom of acute diverticulitis. Though discomfort can be felt on either side of the body, left-sided pain is most common. Certain people experience referred pain that radiates from the abdominal area to the low back. Pain can be sharp and severe or feel like cramps, tenderness or a persistent ache that gets progressively worse. Discomfort can be exacerbated by movement or tight clothing such as a waistband.

The pain associated with diverticulitis is thought to be primarily the result of inflammation. This inflammatory response can cause tissue erosion in the wall of a diverticulum and subsequent irritation of the surrounding tissue. An enclosed pocket of infection called an abscess can also develop and cause pain in the affected area. If tissue erosion causes an opening large enough to perforate the intestinal wall, a more serious and painful infection called peritonitis can follow. Peritonitis occurs when bacteria enters the normally sterile abdominal cavity and infects the peritoneal lining. During an evaluation, a doctor will assess the patient’s pain level and administer tests to rule out other sources of abdominal pain, such as liver disease or pregnancy in women during their child-bearing stage of life.