A condition in which small pouches called diverticuli form within the bowel wall and become inflamed. This can cause abdominal pain, especially in the lower left side of the abdomen, fever and chills, and sudden constipation or diarrhea. Diverticular bleeding may also occur, in which individuals see blood in the stool, accompanied by weakness, dizziness or light-headedness, and abdominal cramping. Diverticulitis may cause serious complications such as an abscess (a painful, pus-filled area outside the colon wall), a perforation (a small hole or tear in the diverticula), peritonitis (inflammation of tissues inside the abdomen due to leakage through the perforation), a fistula (an abnormal passage between organs or between an organ and the outside of the body), and intestinal blockage.
If the symptoms are mild, the patient may be treated at home with antibiotics, a temporary liquid diet, and over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen. If the attack is severe or involves complications, the patient may need to be hospitalized and treated with intravenous antibiotics and, if needed, the insertion of a tube to drain any abscesses.
Complications may require surgery. In primary resection, a surgeon removes diseased segments of the intestine and reconnects the healthy segments. If the surgeon is unable to rejoin the colon and rectum due to excess inflammation, a colostomy may be needed, at least temporarily.