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Diverticula are small sacks that can grow within the lining of your large intestine, most often in the colon. In many cases, people who have diverticula aren’t aware that they have them, but it’s possible that you can develop diverticulitis over time.

What is diverticulitis?

If the diverticula become infected, it is known as diverticulitis, and symptoms of this can be severe. Diverticulitis should not be confused with diverticular disease (where mild symptoms occur) or diverticulosis (where no symptoms occur).

Diverticulitis can lead to more serious complications, so it’s very important that you have it treated.

What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?

The symptoms of diverticulitis can range in severity and often include:

  • Intense abdominal pain – often on the left hand side
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling or appearing bloated
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in your stool

What causes diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis occurs because the diverticula in your large intestine become infected after tearing; however, it is not known exactly why people develop diverticula. It is thought that it can be related to:

  • Family history
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Older age
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • A diet that is high-fat, but low in fibre
  • Some types of medications – these include anti-inflammatories, steroids, and opioids

How is diverticulitis diagnosed?

If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you should speak to your consultant.

At your appointment, they will inquire about your symptoms and medical history and they may also check your abdomen for tender spots. In order to determine whether you have diverticulitis, they may also recommend that you also undergo one or more of the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool tests
  • Urine tests
  • Liver enzyme tests
  • A colonoscopy
  • A CT-scan

How is diverticulitis treated?

The treatment for diverticulitis depends upon its severity.

For less severe cases of diverticulitis, treatments include:

  • Antibiotics (taken at home)
  • Pain medication
  • Adhering to a liquid diet for a few days

If you have severe diverticulitis, you might need to undergo treatment with antibiotics through an IV drip. Occasionally emergency surgery is needed.

  • Emergency Surgery
  • Surgical drainage – a tube is placed in the abdomen to drain any pus away while the bowel heals
  • Sigmoid colectomy – the colon is removed with either open or key hole surgery
  • Colostomy – where part of your colon is re-directed through the abdominal wall, and a bag is affixed to your body to collect your bowel movements

Elective surgery is usually performed with minimally invasive surgery and there is much less change of needed in a colostomy.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by Mr James Kinross

Mr James Kinross  ›

Mr James Kinross is a consultant colorectal surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital.

Find your specialist in diverticulitis at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have diverticulitis and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading diverticulitis specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Mr James Kinross  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal cancer (+ 9) more
Mr Alexander Von Roon  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal cancer (+ 31) more

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