People generally remain unaware that they have diverticular disease unless a complication arises. Complications typically start when one or more of the pouches, or diverticula, become infected and inflamed and diverticulitis develops.
Symptoms from complications can come on quite suddenly and include:
Small blood vessels can be particularly fragile in inflamed diverticula. They can become so stretched that they weaken and finally burst, releasing a surge of blood. The blood may appear in the stool or in the toilet. The bleeding may stop spontaneously and not require treatment. If it continues, it may require surgery.
If an infected
Sometimes an inflamed diverticulum perforates (tears). The risk of perforation is particularly high after a diverticulum becomes seriously infected and develops an abscess. Pus from the abscess can leak out from the intestinal walls into surrounding cavities.
Once an infection leaks out of the intestinal walls through a perforated (torn) diverticulum, it can lead to peritonitis, a life-threatening infection in the abdominal cavity.
Infection from diverticular disease can cause enough thickening and scarring of the bowel wall to block the large intestine, constricting the movement of bowel contents. A complete obstruction requires emergency surgery.
A fistula is an abnormal connection between two organs. This can arise when inflamed or damaged tissue sticks to another organ and heals that way. For example, an infected diverticulum may attach to organs such as the bladder or small intestine. Often in men, a fistula forms between the