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Diverticulitis develops when pouches in the weakened wall of the colon — diverticulosis, which is not necessarily problematic — become inflamed or infected. Diverticulitis ranges in severity, and, in some cases, can result in complications such as abscesses, bowel obstructions, fistulas, blood loss, and peritonitis.

The symptoms that develop before these complications set in can help patients and doctors identify the condition early enough for proper and effective treatment.

Abdominal pain

Despite this high incidence of diverticulosis, most people aren't aware of it because they don't present with any symptoms. However, 25 percent of people with diverticulosis will develop acute diverticulitis.

One of the first symptoms to appear may be cramping or pain. Since the left colon is the most common location of the diverticula, pain generally begins at the lower left side of the abdomen.

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Fever

Fever is an indication that the body has kicked into high gear and is fighting off an infection. In general, abdominal pain accompanied by fever requires a visit to a health professional.

People with diverticular lesions should avoid taking over-the-counter medicines for fever as some of these drugs can promote bleeding and can sometimes delay diagnosis by masking or decreasing the severity of symptoms. Late diagnosis can, in some instances, lead to serious complications.

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Diarrhea

Diverticulitis may range in severity from a small abscess in one of the diverticula to a substantial infection with obstruction of the bowel.

A blocked digestive system may only allow loose stool to pass, resulting in diarrhea. This symptom is usually indicative of an advanced infection that may require hospitalization.

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Constipation

An obstructed bowel can also lead to constipation when the colon becomes even more inflamed, to the point where no stool can pass through.

In such cases, a doctor will most likely request a computer tomography scan to locate the affected site and the extent of the blockage and evaluate the severity of the inflammation.

Upon confirmation of the diagnosis, he may prescribe medications and a liquid diet until the inflammation decreases. More severe cases can require surgery.

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Bloating

Usually, constipation is accompanied by bloating and gas when fecal matter gets trapped behind the obstruction and begins to form gas, which gets stuck as well.

A change in diet can positively affect those prone to diverticulosis. Increasing intake of fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can keep things running smoothly.

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Nausea

An infection in the colon can cause queasiness — especially when it is severe enough to cause an obstruction.

Someone with diverticulitis may also feel nauseated because of gas, constipation, or inflammation in the colon. Diverticulitis can be challenging to diagnose because many of the symptoms, such as nausea, are shared with Crohn's disease, appendicitis, and peptic ulcer disease.

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Vomiting

An obstruction in the bowel can cause severe abdominal pain and nausea to the point of vomiting, which is a sign that it's time to visit the doctor.

While severe intestinal obstruction is rare in diverticulitis, partial obstruction due to intestinal wall edema, or abscess formation, is possible. If the vomit contains fecal matter, the infection has developed lower down the intestinal tract.

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Appetite loss

A loss of appetite often accompanies severe abdominal pain. Obstructed bowel, constipation, and nausea are all symptoms of diverticulitis which may explain lack of hunger and secondary weight loss.

If the infection is so severe that a patient requires hospitalization, he or she will most likely receive fluids, nutrients, and medication via an intravenous drip.

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Rectal bleeding

A person who experiences rectal bleeding and severe pain in the lower left abdomen may have diverticulitis. Bleeding occurring anywhere along the upper digestive tract can show up as darker-colored stool.

The stool of a person bleeding from complicated diverticulitis in the lower portion of the colon is instead more likely to appear coated with bright red, undigested blood.

Diverticular bleeding is a common cause of massive lower gastrointestinal hemorrhage requiring emergency care and surgery.

Diverticulitis can also cause blood loss that is not noticeable but can eventually result in serious anemia and related problems.

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Urinary urgency

When the sigmoid colon (the part of the colon closest to the rectum and anus) becomes inflamed due to diverticulitis, it may push up against the bladder, causing an urgent and frequent need to urinate. This can lead to considerable discomfort and can be mistaken for a bladder infection.

A doctor should always be apprised of sudden or lasting changes in urinary habits.

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Fatigue

Fatigue often comes hand in hand with diverticulitis, and it can be a frustrating symptom for many. As the body wages a silent battle against infection and inflammation in the colon, it expends substantial energy, leaving you feeling unusually tired. This exhaustion can affect your daily life, making even simple tasks feel like monumental challenges. It's essential to prioritize rest and allow your body the time it needs to recover. Adequate rest, balanced diet, and appropriate medical care can help you regain energy and vitality.

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Back pain

Diverticulitis-related pain isn't always limited to the abdominal region. It can sometimes radiate to the lower back, causing discomfort and soreness. This back pain can add an extra layer of complexity to the symptoms you're experiencing. It's crucial to understand that diverticulitis can manifest differently in various individuals, and back pain is one of those variations. If you're dealing with persistent back pain, especially with other diverticulitis symptoms, it's imperative to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation. They can provide the guidance and care necessary to address this unique aspect of your condition.

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Mucus in stool

The mucus in the stool can be another symptom of diverticulitis. This mucus may appear as a gel-like substance and is often due to inflammation and irritation in the colon. When sores occur in the intestines, they bleed and make mucus and pus. You'll often view these signs when you go to the bathroom, and you might experience cramping, diarrhea, and belly pain. While mucus in stool can be unsettling, it's essential to understand that it is a common feature of diverticulitis and may not necessarily indicate a severe problem.

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Chills and sweating

As your body confronts diverticulitis, it may react with chills and sweating. These symptoms can be alarming and indicate the body's immune response to infection and inflammation. Chills are the body's way of generating warmth to fight off the perceived threat, while sweating is a response to cool down the body. Together, they create a somewhat disturbing experience. When you notice chills and sweating accompanying other diverticulitis symptoms, it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Addressing these signs promptly can help prevent the condition from progressing into more severe complications.

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Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

For some individuals, diverticulitis may be associated with recurrent urinary tract infections. This connection is due to the inflammation in the colon, which can exert pressure on the nearby bladder, leading to urinary urgency and discomfort. After completion of the fistula, the tube stays open and releases pus. If the fistula is formed between the bladder and the colonic abscess, pus can appear in the urine, leading to Urinary Tract Infections. Additionally, the urine appears dark and cloudy. Frequent UTIs can be both painful and disruptive to daily life.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.