Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Diverticulosis is caused by the herniation of the colon mucosa through the muscular layer of the colon. This produces a small saclike swelling in the colon wall (diverticula). The most common locations for diverticuli are in the sigmoid and distal colon. The exact reason for the herniation is not known. Up to 20% of the general population is affected with diverticulosis. Older individuals tend to have diverticuli more often than younger individuals. Up to 50% of individuals at age 50 will have them. Individuals who eat a low-fiber diet are much more apt to form diverticula. A barium enema xray examination is used to detect this condition. Diverticuli may also be found on colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy (lighted flexible tubes used to examine the colon). The condition is a lifelong problem. Complications such as infection (diverticulitis) and bleeding can occur.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Diverticulosis usually does not have any symptoms. About 10% to 20% of individuals with the condition will have mild, left-sided abdominal cramping. A bowel movement or passing gas often relieves the cramping. Constipation may be an occasional problem.

No treatment is necessary unless there are symptoms. For symptoms a change in diet and stool softeners will help.

The DOs
• Eat a high-fiber, low-salt, low-fat diet.
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Maintain proper physical activity.
• Maintain proper weight. Try to lose weight if overweight.
• Maintain proper bowel habits by trying to have a bowel movement daily.
• Watch for signs of blood in the stool or dark tarry bowel movements.
• Watch for signs of diverticulitis and other complications such as abdominal pain and fever.

The DON’Ts
• Do not strain with bowel movements.
• Avoid laxatives.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If you have blood in the stool.
• If abdominal pain develops or becomes worse.
• If a fever develops and you have abdominal pain.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse