Diverticular (say: die-ver-tick-yoo-ler) disease affects the lining of your large intestine. It is caused by small pouches (called diverticula) that can form anywhere in your digestive tract, but usually form in the last part of the large intestine (called the colon).
The most common types of diverticular disease are:
Diverticular disease affects both men and women and is most common in people older than 40 years of age. Diverticular disease may be caused by not eating enough fiber. When you don't eat enough fiber, you may get constipated and your stools may not be as soft. Constipation and hard stools increase the pressure in the bowel walls. This pressure may cause the diverticular pouches to form.
Your doctor may check your abdomen for tenderness and ask you about your bowel habits, diet and medications. Your doctor may also want to do some tests to screen for diverticular disease:
Sometimes, diverticular disease is found when tests are ordered for a different reason, such as routine screening that checks for colorectal cancer or other digestive problems.
For diverticulosis, your doctor may suggest that you eat more fiber, drink plenty of fluids and exercise regularly to help prevent the pouches from becoming infected or inflamed.
For mild cases of diverticulitis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. He or she may also suggest that you eat more fiber, drink plenty of fluids and exercise regularly to help prevent future problems.
For severe cases of diverticulitis or diverticular bleeding, your may need surgery to remove the pouches and the diseased parts of your colon.
A high-fiber diet is the best way to prevent diverticular disease. You can increase the amount of fiber you eat by including more fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods in your diet. Also be sure to drink plenty of fluids and exercise regularly.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff