Also called diverticular disease, diverticulosis happens when small pouches, called diverticula, bulge outward through the colon. This becomes more common as people get older, and about half of all people over age 60 have it. Physicians believe the main cause of this condition is a low-fiber diet. Most people with diverticulosis don’t have symptoms, but the condition can cause mild cramps, bloating or constipation. A high-fiber diet and medications to reduce colon spasm will often relieve these symptoms.
If the pouches become inflamed or infected, the condition is then called diverticulitis. The most common symptom is abdominal pain, usually on the left side. If the diverticula are infected, patients can also have fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping or constipation. In serious cases, diverticulitis can lead to bleeding or blockages or even perforation (puncture) through the bowel wall. Treatment focuses on clearing up the infection with antibiotics, resting the colon and preventing future problems.