What Causes Diverticulitis?

Nowadays, more often than not, adults over the age of 40 develop small, pouch-like structures in their digestive tracts. These pouch-like structures are known as diverticula. Around 25% with diverticula develop diverticulitis. As per the Harvard Health Publications, by the time they reach the age of 60, on average, half of the Americans will develop diverticulitis. According to the National Institute of Health, diverticulitis can be a painful condition and can lead to severe complications if it is not treated properly and in time.

Causes of Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis

In order to know what causes diverticulitis, you first have to know the formation of diverticulosis.

Diverticulosis – A Condition Before Diverticulitis

Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are the two conditions that occur in the diverticular disease. Diverticulosis happens when pouches known as diverticula form in the colon and can progress into diverticulosis. The bulging pouches are similar to those weak spots in a tire. Till date, there is no known reason found for the formation of diverticula. Doctors are of the opinion that high pressure inside the colon pushes against the weak spots in the colon wall and this is what causes the pouches to be formed. Another reason could be the uncoordinated movements of the colon.

Then What Causes Diverticulitis?

When these pouches get inflamed, this condition is then called as diverticulitis. Not everyone who suffers diverticulosis develops diverticulitis. The exact cause of diverticulitis is not known, but weakening of the bowel system could be one of the reasons. Constipation is one of the reasons when high pressure is there inside the colon and you need more pressure to pass your stools. Faces remain in the diverticula and infection is caused. Eating a low fiber diet causes the formation of the pouches and, in turn, constipation. For your stools to pass easily, stools should be soft. In this case, eating more fiber helps.

How Do I Know If I Have Diverticulitis?

With diverticulitis, you could have any one or more of the symptoms mentioned below that may last for hours or days:

  • Chill or fever
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Abdominal bloating, swelling or gas
  • Nausea and at times accompanied with vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps or pain generally in the lower left side that worsens when you move around

What's more, complications could be the reason behind the occurring of symptoms. Sometimes, a fistula or an abnormal opening may form between the vagina and the colon or the urethra and the colon. This may cause a person to pass stool or air from the vagina or urethra.

After knowing what causes diverticulitis, you should bear the above mentioned symptoms in mind. If any of them occur more and more often, visit your doctor to get a right diagnosis. Tests like blood test, CT scan, abdominal ultrasound and X-rays will be conducted to rule out any infection.

Note: Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or urinary tract infection may cause symptoms that are similar to diverticulitis. So be sure to seek a doctor and find out what causes your discomfort.

How to Treat Diverticulitis?

According to the severity of symptoms, treatment varies. Here are some of the main treatments:

General Treatments

  • Uncomplicated diverticulitis has mild symptoms and can be treated at home. If you have an infection, your doctor may suggest a course of antibiotics. A liquid diet may be recommended until your symptoms improve. If you are in pain, a pain reliever like acetaminophen can be taken. This treatment option succeeds in about 70% to 100% cases of uncomplicated diverticulitis.
  • Complicated diverticulitis displays severe symptoms, and you may need to be hospitalized where antibiotics are administered intravenously. If you have an abscess, then a tube would be inserted to drain out the abscess.


Knowing what causes diverticulitis is useless if you do not seek out the right solution. When general treatment fails, surgery is recommended:

  • If the problem persists and is very complicated with a bowel obstruction, abscess, fistula or perforation;
  • If you have had repeatedly uncomplicated diverticulitis;
  • If you do not have a strong immune system;

There are mainly 2 types of surgeries:

  • Primary bowel resection where the diseased parts of your intestines are removed and the healthy parts are reconnected together (anastomosis), which allows you to have normal bowel movements. You can either have a minimally invasive procedure or an open surgery depending on the severity of your inflammation.
  • Bowel resection with colostomy is done when it is not possible to reconnect your colon and rectum because of too much inflammation. The healthy part of your colon is connected to an opening (stoma) in the abdominal wall. Faces pass through the opening into a bag. After the inflammation has reduced, the bowels can be reconnected.

Follow-Up Care

After 6 weeks recovering from diverticulitis, a colonoscopy which can't be done during a diverticulitis attacks may be recommended by your doctor, especially if you haven't done this test in the previous years. This helps to make sure whether colon cancer is causing your symptoms or not.

How to Prevent Diverticulitis

If you know how to prevent diverticulitis, you don't need to ask what causes diverticulitis! The following lifestyle changes could definitely help you prevent diverticulitis:

1. Eat Fiber Rich Food

Eat lots of high fiber foods, like fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains and legumes. This makes the waste in the body soft and helps pass quickly thorough the colon, thereby reducing the pressure in the digestive tract.

2. Consume Adequate Fluids

Water is absorbed by the fiber thereby making the waste soft and bulky. Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day; lacking water will make you end up getting constipation.

3. Regular Exercise

Regular Exercise is one of the best ways to keep you healthy and helps in having a normal bowel movement because it reduces the pressure inside the colon. You'd better exercise at least 30 minutes daily or on most days.

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