Diverticulosis is when pockets called diverticula form in the walls of your digestive tract.

The inner layer of your intestine pushes through weak spots in the outer lining. This pressure makes them bulge out, making little pouches. Most often it happens in your colon, the lower part of your large intestine.

Is It the Same As Diverticulitis?

No. Diverticulitis happens if one or more of the pockets gets inflamed or infected. This can cause severe pain in your belly. Diverticulosis often brings no symptoms at all.

Who’s at Risk?

Diverticulosis is common in people over age 60. It doesn’t happen often to those younger than 30. Experts think the pouches show more with age. Men might get it more than women.

Research shows the condition might be genetic. That means you’re more likely to get it if your parents or any of your brothers or sisters have it.

What Causes It?

Doctors aren’t sure. Some think muscle spasms or strain (like when you have a bowel movement) make pressure build in your colon and push against the lining. This repeat action cause an out pouching of the colon lining.

What Are the Symptoms?

Most people who have diverticulosis don’t show any signs. Those who do might have:

  • Belly pain or cramping
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

A doctor likely will suggest some ways to relieve your symptoms, like taking a mild pain reliever, while they pinpoints the cause. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcers can cause similar symptoms, so they’ll want to rule them out.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Most doctors don’t notice cases of diverticulosis until they screen for other conditions. For instance, the pouches might show up in a colonoscopy, or an X-ray.

Can I Prevent Diverticulosis?

This condition is much more common now than it was 100 years ago. Many doctors believe our modern diet – which features lots of refined carbs and keeps you from getting enough fiber – plays the biggest role in whether you get it.

Other possible risk factors include:

  • Being extremely overweight
  • Eating too much fat and red meat
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Using anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen

Possible Complications

Having diverticulosis doesn’t mean you’ll have more problems, but they can happen. For example:

Sacs can get infected, and even burst. This is diverticulitis. It’s treated with rest, fluids, and antibiotics.

The infection can spread and an abscess can form. A specialist will need to drain the pus.

A perforation (a hole along the stomach wall) can occur. It’s rare, but life-threatening and requires immediate surgery.

You can get a diverticular hemorrhage. This is rare. It happens when your arteries wear through the intestinal wall. It causes massive bleeding and requires hospitalization and blood transfusions.