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It is possible that the main title of the report Diverticulosis is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.


  • colon, diverticulosis
  • diverticulosis of the colon

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Diverticulosis is characterized by small sac-like protrusions (hernias) of inner intestinal tissue through the muscular wall of the large intestine (colon). These protrusions are called diverticula and may occur in any part of the colon, but most frequently are found in the lowest part (sigmoid).


Diverticulosis is characterized by small sac-like bodies (diverticula) that protrude through the wall of the colon. The diverticular wall consists of a thin layer of mucous membrane tissue. Diverticula can vary in size from 0.1 inch to larger than 1 inch in diameter.

In most cases, individuals with diverticulosis exhibit no symptoms of the disorder (asymptomatic) other than the development of diverticula. However, in rare cases, diverticulosis may cause abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, an uncomfortable feeling after eating (dyspepsia), and/or bleeding from a portion of the large intestine (rectum).

In some cases, the diverticula may become inflamed or infected (diverticulitis). (For more information on this disorder, see the Related Disorders section of the report.)


Diverticulosis may be caused by a highly refined diet lacking sufficient fiber and bulk. The lack of bulk may cause muscle spasms of the colon, especially in the lower section called the sigmoid. Pressure inside the colon builds up and the mucous tissue eventually pushes through the muscular coat of the colon, usually where the blood vessels pierce the muscle. Ulceration of the diverticulum may occur causing rectal bleeding. Chronic constipation may also cause diverticulosis. If the sacs become infected, diverticulosis becomes diverticulitis. (For more information, see the Related Disorders section of this report.)

Affected Populations

Diverticulosis is a common disorder affecting 30 to 40% of persons over age 50. The incidence increases with each subsequent decade of life. It affects males and females in equal numbers. Diverticulitis is less common than diverticulosis.

Standard Therapies


The diagnosis of diverticulosis is usually confirmed by the presence of diverticula on CAT-scan or x-ray images. Examination of the diverticula can also be done directly by inserting a very thin, flexible tube through the rectum into the colon. This tube is equipped with a tiny, powerful camera that helps the doctor determine if inflammation is present in the diverticula.

In some cases, especially in people over 50, a diagnosis of diverticulosis may be suspected if the individual is overweight, exhibits signs of thickening of the inner layers of the walls of certain arteries (atherosclerosis), and experiences abdominal pain or rectal bleeding.


Some cases of diverticulosis are treated by antibiotics and a few days of liquid diet followed by a diet high in fiber (e.g., whole wheat bread, bran cereal, etc.) Application of heat, adequate rest, a diet with substantial bulk and medication usually relieve symptoms. Small doses of barbiturates, or muscle relaxant, as well as antispasmodic agents may also relieve abdominal distress. Rectal bleeding may be treated by a clear liquid diet, blood transfusions, repair of coagulation defects, and/or the administration of fluids through the veins (intravenously).

Treatment options depend upon the severity of the bleeding. If severe bleeding persists or recurs, surgical intervention may be necessary.

Investigational Therapies

Information on current clinical trials is posted on the Internet at www.clinicaltrials.gov. All studies receiving U.S. government funding, and some supported by private industry, are posted on this government website.

For information about clinical trials being conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, contact the NIH Patient Recruitment Office:

Tollfree: (800) 411-1222

TTY: (866) 411-1010

Email: prpl@cc.nih.gov

For information about clinical trials sponsored by private sources, contact:




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Kasper, DL, Fauci AS, Longo DL, et al. Eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 16th ed. McGraw-Hill Companies. New York, NY; 2005:159-60.

Yamada T, Alpers DH, Kaplowitz N, Laine L, et al. Eds. Textbook for Gastroenterology. 4th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Philadelphia, PA; 2003:1844-45.


Eglash A, Lane CH, Schneider DM. Clinical inquiries. What is the most beneficial diet for patients with diverticulosis? J Fam Pract. 2006;55:813-5.

Brian West A. The pathology of diverticulosis: classical concepts and mucosal changes in diverticula. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006;40(7 Suppl 3):S126-31.

Spiller R. How inflammation changes neuromuscular function and its relevance to symptoms in diverticular disease. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006;40(7 Suppl 3):S117-20.

Bogardus ST Jr. What do we know about diverticular disease? A brief overview. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 Aug;40(7 Suppl 3):S108-11.


Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). October, 2006.


Accessed: 6/20/2007

Bebarta V, Heard K. Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis. EMedicineHealth. Last Editorial Review: 8/10/2005


Accessed: 6/20/2007

Diet for Diverticulosis. Department of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Ohio State University Medical Center.©(5/2003).

Accessed: 6/20/2007


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For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.® (NORD). Cigna members can access the complete report by logging into myCigna.com. For non-Cigna members, a copy of the complete report can be obtained for a small fee by visiting the NORD website. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational treatments (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, see http://www.rarediseases.org/search/rdblist.html.