If there are diverticula in your colon (these are usually discovered during a colonoscopy or CT scan), you may be worried that you will be at risk of certain symptoms.
But don’t worry: If you have diverticula (diverticulosis) but have never experienced abdominal pain or diarrhea, there’s a 70 to 80 percent chance that these sacs won’t give you any painful symptoms.1
Common Symptoms of Diverticulitis
If you do experience diverticulosis symptoms, they tend to be generally mild, and include:2
• Abdominal pain, particularly in the belly
• Constipationor diarrhea (occurs less often)
It is said that eating a high-fiber diet may both help reduce the risk of any symptom developing and prevent diverticula from rupturing and becoming diverticulitis. Once you have diverticulitis the symptoms become more intense and painful, and may include:3
• Constant and severe pain in the lower abdomen
• A change in your normal bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea. It may also be episodes of constipation, followed by diarrhea. Another classic pattern is having multiple trips to the toilet in the morning to pass stools similar to "rabbit pellets."
• Nausea and vomiting
• Having a fever of 38 degrees C (100.4 degrees F) or above
• A general feeling of being tired and unwell (malaise)
• Bleeding. Bright red or maroon blood may appear in your stool, or in the toilet or on your toilet paper, after passing stools. At least 50 percent of diverticulitis patients experience this. This is a symptom of rectal bleeding, and is often mild and usually stops by itself, although it can become severe in some cases.
The pain associated with diverticulitis may either come on suddenly and severely, or may build up over a period of days. It usually starts below the belly button and then moves to the lower left-hand side. The pain may be worse when you are eating or afterward. Passing stool and flatulence may help relieve this pain.
Diverticulitis pain may fluctuate in intensity. The degree of pain you experience depends on how severe the infection is and whether it has spread to other parts of your digestive tract. East Asian people often develop the pain in the lower right part of the abdomen, as they develop diverticular in a different area of their colon for genetic reasons.
Complications Associated With Diverticulitis
Serious complications may arise if this illness is not addressed immediately, which is why, if you experience diverticulitis symptoms, you should consult a health care professional to get a proper diagnosis.
If you notice that your symptoms have become persistent, the abdominal pain has worsened, you have a recurring urinary tract infection, swollen abdomen, low blood pressure and/or severe vomiting (inability to tolerate fluids), get medical attention immediately. Complications with diverticulitis are usually rare, but if they do occur, they can be life-threatening.
Remember that these symptoms of diverticulitis and diverticulosis are non-specific, meaning they may occur in other digestive disorders, so it’s best to consult with a health care professional to confirm the presence of diverticula, and confirm whether you have diverticulosis or diverticulitis.