What is the spectrum of conditions included in diverticular disease?

Updated: Aug 06, 2019
  • Author: Elie M Ghoulam, MD, MS; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Diverticular disease (diverticulosis, diverticulitis) is a general term that references the presence of diverticula, small pouches in the large intestinal (colonic) wall. These outpouchings arise when the inner layers of the colon push through weaknesses in the outer muscular layers. [1] Notably, diverticulosis can occur anywhere in the colon, but it is most common in the left colon (descending or sigmoid colon).

The cause of diverticulosis is unclear, but it has been associated with increased pressure from constipation or increasing abdominal girth in obesity. The classic high-fat and low-fiber diet of the Western culture may be a major contributor to the development of diverticulosis. The low-fiber diet is thought to predispose to diverticulosis owing to a slower fecal transit time and smaller stool weight. The highest prevalence of diverticular disease is in North America, where approximately 50% of the older adult population has diverticulosis, as compared to a 0.5% prevalence in the developing nations of Africa and Asia. [10]

Diverticular disease can be asymptomatic (diverticulosis) or involve acute or chronic, symptomatic inflammation of these pouches (diverticulitis). Although diverticulitis has been generally considered a disease of older adults, as many as 20% of patients with diverticulitis are younger than 50 years. In its chronic form, patients may have recurrent bouts of low-grade or overt diverticulitis.

For patient education resources, see Digestive Disorders Center, as well Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis) Symptoms and Diet  and Abdominal Pain (Adults).

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