Diverticulitis and Diverticular Disease Patient Information Fact Sheet
What tests confirm a diagnosis of diverticulitis and diverticular disease?
A barium enema (a special x-ray of the intestine) may be necessary for diagnosis of diverticulitis. Alternatively, a colonoscopy may be performed. This procedure involves passing a flexible fiber-optic tube into the bowel via the rectum to relay images to a video monitor, allowing the doctor to examine the surface of the colon. If necessary, a biopsy (a small sample of the bowel lining) can also be taken. A blood test will show a high white cell count when infection is present.
How is diverticulitis and diverticular disease treated?
If diverticula are present but diverticulitis has not yet occurred, a change in diet can greatly help to prevent the condition from deteriorating. Eating a high-fiber diet and drinking large quantities of water will aid the movement of waste products along the bowel. This will also help to prevent the stools from becoming hard and dry, which can cause constipation and straining when passing stool. Laxatives and enemas should be avoided as these can make the condition worse. Symptoms of pain and bloating in diverticular disease may also be relieved by a high-fiber diet. However, in some people reducing the amount of fiber in the diet helps. Because the symptoms of diverticular disease are caused mainly by the muscle of the colon contracting too much an antispasmodic drug may sometimes be prescribed.
In acute diverticulitis, bed rest may be necessary. Analgesics (painkillers) will be given for the pain and antibiotics to cure the infection. While infection is present, a fluid-only diet may be necessary to allow the intestine to rest and heal. Nutritionally fortified drinks may be prescribed to ensure an adequate diet and prevent malnourishment.
- Eat a high-fiber diet including bread, fruit, vegetables and whole-grain cereals.
- Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water.
- Try to avoid constipation by always passing stool whenever there is an urge to do so.
- Avoid any foods that make the symptoms worse, such as carbonated drinks and gas-forming foods like beans, cabbage, and cauliflower.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC): www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov/index.htm
Last reviewed: May 2011