Signs and Symptoms of Diverticulitis

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Diverticula are small pockets that form in your colon where the wall of this part of your digestive tract has become weak. They cause no symptoms but occasionally become infected and/or inflamed. This is a condition called diverticulitis.

The most common diverticulitis symptom is stomach pain on the left side, but it can also cause a change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea), fever, and nausea or vomiting.

Even with symptoms, most cases of diverticulitis can be treated at home. However, a 2018 study suggests about 25% of people will experience complications, many of them requiring treatment in hospital.

diverticulitis symptoms


Frequent Symptoms of Diverticulitis

Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of diverticulitis. It is often chronic and can go on for several days.

In most cases, the diverticula form in the last part of the large intestine, which is called the sigmoid colon. It is located on the left side of the abdomen, which is why diverticulitis may lead to feeling stomach pain on your left side.

In some cases, people may have pain on the right or on both sides of the abdomen. This may occur if there are diverticula in other parts of the colon. The pain is located in the lower part of the abdomen and is not felt higher up, like under the ribs, as is the case with some other digestive conditions.

Apart from stomach pain on your left side, often after eating, common symptoms of diverticulitis can include:

Rare Symptoms of Diverticulitis

Bleeding with diverticulitis isn’t common but can occur in some cases. If there are complications from the diverticulitis, such as a fistula, abscess, or bowel perforation, there can be other symptoms caused by those conditions. Symptoms of diverticulitis that are less common can include:


While they are not common, there are several different complications that may occur along with diverticulitis.


An abscess is a bacterial infection that causes a pocket of blood and pus to form. Abscesses associated with diverticulitis may cause fever and abdominal pain. They are treated with antibiotics and/or drainage.


A fistula is a tunnel that forms in the body and connects either two organs or an organ and the skin. 

Symptoms of a fistula (which depends on location) can include a break in the skin, swelling, pain, passing air while urinating, passing stool through the vagina, a visible skin break, or drainage from the area.

A fistula may be treated with surgery or with the use of a seton, which is a thread that is gradually tightened until the fistula is closed.

Bowel Obstruction

A bowel obstruction is a blockage in the intestine which prevents the passage of stool. When diverticulitis leads to a bowel obstruction the symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Distention (swelling) and bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Thin stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

An obstruction might be treated in the hospital through the use of a nasogastric (NG) tube, or in some cases may require surgery.


A perforation is a hole in the colon. It is a serious condition that requires treatment immediately in order to prevent complications such as peritonitis, which is a potentially fatal infection.

The symptoms of a perforation can include severe abdominal pain, fever, chills, bleeding from the rectum, and nausea and vomiting.

When to Worry About Leftside Pain

Diverticulitis can be managed at home, but the symptoms always require an evaluation from a healthcare provider and direction for treatment at home or in the hospital.

Abdominal pain should prompt a call to your healthcare provider. When it is severe, and you also experience other symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, and rectal bleeding, it is a reason to go to the emergency department right away or even to call 911.

Diverticulitis Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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A Word From Verywell

In most cases diverticulitis is uncomplicated, but severe symptoms raise concern over complications that can be serious and life-threatening. Even if diverticulitis symptoms are thought to be a flare-up because it has happened before, call your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's the difference between diverticulitis and diverticulosis?

    Diverticulosis is when small pockets, or pouches, form on the inside of your colon where its walls have become weaker. Diverticulitis is a condition that occurs when these pockets become infected or inflamed.

  • What foods should I avoid if I have diverticulitis?

    Foods that may aggravate diverticulitis or cause a flare-up include red meat and refined grains. Research suggests alcohol use is associated with the risk of bleeding from diverticulitis, but not with many of its complications.

  • Will diverticulitis symptoms return if I've had them before?

    It's possible. Recurrence of acute diverticulitis within 10 years will happen in 8% to 36% of cases. Lifestyle changes, medication, and careful monitoring by your healthcare provider can help prevent this.

  • What else can cause symptoms of diverticulitis?

    There are other medical conditions that can be mistaken for diverticulitis because of similar symptoms. These conditions include irritable bowel syndrome, appendicitis, and cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation).

  • Can diverticulitis go away on its own?

    It can. Many people with uncomplicated diverticulitis will see their symptoms go away in about a week. It's still important that you speak to a healthcare provider so they can diagnosis the severity of your case and discuss treatment with you.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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