A diverticulum is a small bulging sac pushing outward from the colon wall. The word diverticula reflects the presence of more than one. As a person ages, pressure within the colon pushes on the wall of the colon causing pockets of tissue to take form. A small bulging sac pushing outward from the colon wall is a diverticulum. Diverticula can occur throughout the colon but are most common near the end of the colon, the sigmoid colon, the S-shaped segment of the colon the lower left (from the subject’s point of view) part of the abdomen.
Diverticulitis is inflammation of along the wall of the colon. For diverticulitis to occur, there must be diverticulosis, the presence of diverticula. Diverticulosis can occur anywhere in the colon but it is most typical in the sigmoid colon, The incidence of diverticulosis increases with age, probably because age leads to weakening of the walls of the colon and this weakening permits the formation of diverticula. By age 80, most people have diverticulosis. An important factor in the formation of diverticulosis is elevated pressure within the colon. Pressure within the colon is raised when a person is constipated and must push down to effect a bowel movement. Most patients with diverticulosis have few or no symptoms although some have mild symptoms, commonly abdominal cramping and bloating. Diverticulosis sets the stage for inflammation and infection of the diverticula. It is potentially serious and can result in pain in the left lower abdomen, fever, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea and frequent urination. Perforation of the colon and peritonitis are the more consequential possible effects of diverticulitis. The best way to avoid diverticulosis is by eating a proper healthy diet with plenty of fiber. A diet high in fiber keeps the bowels moving, keeps the pressure within the colon at a reasonable level, and slows or stops the formation of diverticuli. Diverticulitis can be diagnosed with barium x-rays of the colon or with sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Treatment of diverticulitis is designed to combat the inflammation and infection and in the extreme case, surgical removal may be required.