Oftentimes, diverticulitis is often referred to as diverticulosis, but there are distinct differences between these two conditions. While they are both classified as diverticular disease, they are actually two different phases of this three-phase illness.
Diverticulosis is the phase when a diverticulum or several diverticula have developed inside your colon (large intestine). These pouches or sacs, which are usually the size of peas or marbles, form in the colon usually when a person is constipated.
Hard stools usually lead to excessive straining, which pushes the pockets outward on weakened areas of the intestinal wall.
In most cases, diverticulosis has no symptoms and is usually painless. If it does cause symptoms, they are usually mild, such as abdominal cramping. Usually, the presence of diverticulum or diverticula is only discovered when a patient undergoes a radiography or routine colonoscopy exam.1
Meanwhile, diverticulitis is the next (and more severe) phase of diverticular disease. A patient who has diverticulosis may or may not experience this condition. It occurs when the pouches become trapped with waste matter and bacteria, or become inflamed due to pressure and strain.2 Diverticulitis symptoms are very noticeable, and cause severe discomfort.
This condition manifests with pain, usually on the left side of the abdomen. The pain is gradual, building up and intensifying slowly.
Diverticulitis also comes with other symptoms, such as nausea, fever, bowel movement changes, and vomiting. If not detected and treated immediately, it may resort to serious conditions.
The third type (or phase) of diverticular disease is known as diverticular bleeding.3 This occurs when a blood vessel near a diverticulum bursts. The main symptom of this is bloody stool, and the blood may appear either as dark red or bright red clots.
Although it’s not usually painful and the bleeding stops on its own, it is still important to consult a physician once you notice blood during your bowel movement. This is to ensure that you are not losing too much blood and to rule out other serious conditions as well.