Symptoms and causes

What is it?

Diverticles are a common problem (50% of people at age 70 have them); they consist of weak spots in the colon wall. In these weak spots, the intestinal wall bulges out and small pouches form. These pouches are called diverticles, and the presence of diverticles in a patient is called diverticulosis. Inflammation of these bags is quite common and is called diverticulitis.

Cause

It is believed that the cause of these problems lies in the Western diet, which is too low in fibre.

Symptoms and complaints

Diverticulosis on its own does not usually cause any symptoms, diverticulitis, on the other hand, almost always causes symptoms: lower abdominal pain, fever, constipation...

Diverticulosis and diverticulitis can be complicated by bleeding, intestinal perforation and abscesses.

Diagnosis and treatment

Testing and diagnosis

Usually, diverticles are detected by chance based on a radiography of the colon or a colonoscopy. In the case of diverticulitis, in response to symptoms, the diagnosis is usually made through a physician's clinical examination combined with a blood test. If diverticulitis is suspected, a CT scan of the abdomen is recommended as a start.

Treatment

The treatment of diverticulosis consists of increasing fibre intake. The treatment of diverticulitis consists of controlling the infection with antibiotics. If this fails or if the inflammation recurs too frequently, surgical intervention can be decided upon.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Digestive Centre

Latest publication date: 21/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Vanderstraeten Erik