Diverticulitis – A Common Cause of Abdominal Pain after 40s

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Diverticulitis occurs when little pouches form in the lining of the digestive tract, most commonly the colon. It usually occurs in people over the age of 40. The pouches themselves do not cause any problems, but they can become inflamed or infected and make the sufferer uncomfortable.

Causes of Diverticulitis

Diverticula usually form in weak spots in the colon. These areas are also often under a lot of pressure. The diverticula protrude from the colon. When they become ripped, they can get infected or inflamed. This results in diverticulitis.

Symptoms of Diverticulitis

Unless the diverticula are inflamed or infected, sufferers usually don’t show any symptoms. Once they do start to exhibit symptoms, they can include:

Diagnosis of Diverticulitis

Because the diverticula themselves are not harmful, most cases go undiagnosed until a person suffers an acute attack. A doctor might perform a variety of tests to determine if a patient is suffering from diverticulitis or another health problem. Those tests include:

  • Physical Exam: The doctor will touch the abdomen to determine if there is any swelling, pain, or tenderness.
  • Urine Tests: Urine tests can show signs of infection.
  • Liver TestsMany cases of abdominal pain are the result of liver problems. A liver test can rule out liver issues.
  • Stool Tests: Stool tests can rule out infections in the bowels. They are often ordered when there is serious diarrhea accompanying the other symptoms.
  • CT Scan: The best way to find out if diverticulitis is causing the symptoms is to perform a CT scan. This allows doctors to look at the colon and see if there are any pouches formed in the digestive tract. These tests can also determine the severity of the disease.

Treatment of Diverticulitis

Treatment for diverticulitis depends on the severity. Mild symptoms may be treated at home. Some common treatments for uncomplicated diverticulitis include:

Diverticulitis that is more severe or that occurs with other health problems might have to be treated in a hospital. This is called complicated diverticulitis, and the treatments for it include:

Surgery might be necessary for reoccurring diverticulitis. There are two types of surgeries that are often used.

  • Primary Bowel Resection: For this type of surgery, parts of the infected or diseased bowel are removed and the healthy bowel is reattached to other healthy sections. This is a minimally invasive surgery and allows the sufferer to have regular bowel movements.
  • Bowel Resection with Colostomy: In cases where the bowel is so inflamed or diseased that it might not be able to be attached to a healthy section or there might not be enough healthy bowel to save, surgeons will perform a colostomy. They make an opening in the abdomen and connect a tube to the healthy part of the colon. The waste passes through the tube and into a bag. Once the inflammation in the bowel has done down, the colostomy can be reversed.

Prognosis of Diverticulitis

Once a person has been diagnosed and treated, the prognosis is good. Treatments help prevent future problems, and regular checkups can help prevent an acute attack from happening again.


  • American College of Gastroenterology