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Diverticular Disease

What Are The Symptoms Of Diverticular Disease?

Last updated on:
21/03/2012

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Most people with diverticular disease never experience symptoms.

When symptoms do appear, they range widely in severity, depending on the extent of the inflammation or infection of the pouches, and the possible complications that may occur.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain in the abdomen, usually on the lower left side, ranging from slight tenderness to severe pain
  • Cramps and bloating
  • Muscle spasms
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bleeding with the stools

If infection develops in a pouch (diverticulitis), a person may also experience:

  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • The release of pus and mucus from the rectum

Nice To Know:

Q: Does diverticular disease increase the chance of later developing colon cancer?

A: No, diverticular disease doesn't seem to increase the risk for colon cancer. But the symptoms of colon cancer can be quite similar to those of diverticular disease. Cancer and diverticula often look alike on CT scans (CT stands for Computed Tomography, a type of x-ray that shows the condition of soft tissue).

So anyone suspected of having diverticular disease based on the findings of a CT scan should have a colonoscopy to rule out colon cancer. If no cancer is found, people with diverticular disease should undergo the same schedule of colon cancer screening as the general population.

Other Conditions With Similar Symptoms

It is important to see a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of diverticular disease, in order to identify the cause. There are several other conditions that may present similar symptoms:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Appendicitis (typically causes pain on the lower right side of the abdomen, distinguished from diverticular disease where pain is experienced usually on the lower left side)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Colon or bowel cancer
  • Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory condition of the colon
  • The presence of a foreign body in the intestines
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Fibroid tumors in women (noncancerous tumors of the uterus)

For further information about colorectal cancer, go to Colorectal Cancer.

For further information about ulcerative colitis, go to Ulcerative Colitis.

For further information about Fibroids, go to Fibroids.

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.