Diverticula are small pouches that develop in the digestive tract in some people, most often after age 40. Acute diverticulitis occurs if these pouches become inflamed or infected, according to the Mayo Clinic and the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
Although the exact cause is not known, the condition began to manifest in the early 1900s, when processed foods became popular, leading to the consumption of low-fiber diets, according to the NDDIC. Other possible triggers include lack of exercise, constipation putting pressure on the colon wall, and trapped fecal matter.
Abdominal pain in the lower left portion of the abdomen is the most common symptom. Pain tends to be acute and intense, but some people experience mild pain that progresses over a few days. Other common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, tenderness, cramping and a change in bowel habits.
Complications include abscesses, rectal bleeding, intestinal blockages, inflammation of the abdominal cavity, and fistulas (abnormal connections between your intestine and other parts of the body).
Treatment includes taking antibiotics and following a special diet, which will likely consist of a liquid diet for the first two to three days. A low-fiber diet will follow. Once you heal, your doctor will advise you to increase your fiber intake to reduce the risk of future episodes.
You might require surgery if complications accompany your diverticulitis or if medications and diet do not promote healing. Surgery involves removing the damaged portion of the intestine.