Diverticular disease, also known as diverticulosis, is a common condition that affects mainly patients above the age of 50. Only a small percentage of those with diverticular disease have symptoms, and even fewer will ever require surgery.

What is diverticular disease or diverticulitis?

Diverticular disease is a condition where diverticula develop in the colonic wall. Diverticula are pockets or out-pouching in the colonic wall. Diverticulitis describes inflammation or infection of these pockets.

What are the symptoms of diverticular disease?

Most people with diverticular disease have no symptoms at all. Symptoms are due to complications of diverticular disease such as diverticulitis and bleeding. Diverticular disease is known to be a common cause of large amount of bleeding from the colon.

Diverticulitis is an infection of the diverticula. Diverticulitis may cause abdominal pain, fever and change in bowel habit. More severe symptoms are associated with serious complications such as perforation, abscess or fistula formation (an abnormal connection between the colon and another organ such as the bladder).

What is the cause of diverticular disease?

Diverticular disease seems to be more common for people who take a low fibre diet. It is believed that insufficient fibre in the diet creates high pressure in the colon, which over the years results in diverticula formation.

What is the treatment for diverticular disease?

Dietary adjustments to increase the intake of fibre in the diet may reduce the pressure in the colon. This may decrease the risk of problems and complications from diverticular disease. Diverticulitis, however, requires antibiotics treatment. Mild diverticulitis can be treated with oral antibiotics, but more severe diverticulitis will require hospitalisation and IV antibiotics.

Surgery is occasionally necessary in very severe episode of diverticulitis that does not respond to IV antibiotics or if complications developed. Surgery may also be considered if a patient suffers from repeated attacks of severe diverticulitis.

Mild bleeding from diverticular disease may be treated medically. Surgery may also be necessary in a patient with severe bleeding from diverticular disease or had repeated episodes of diverticular bleeding.

Surgery for diverticular disease involves removal of the affected part of the colon followed by re-connection of the colon to restore continuity.