Signs and Symptoms of Diverticulitis

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

In many cases, diverticula cause no symptoms but occasionally they can become infected and/or inflamed, which is a condition called diverticulitis.

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

Luckily, even with symptoms, the majority of cases of diverticulitis are not complicated and can be treated at home. However, according to a 2010 study around 27 percent of the time there can be complications that require hospitalization.

diverticulitis symptoms
© Verywell, 2018 

Frequent Symptoms

The abdominal pain is the most common symptom of diverticulitis and it is usually constant and goes 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 discomfort or pain primarily on that side.

However, in a minority of cases, some people may have pain on the right or on both sides of the abdomen if there are diverticula in other parts of the colon.

Other common symptoms can include:

  • chills
  • constipation
  • cramping
  • bloating
  • diarrhea (occasionally)
  • gas
  • fever
  • lack of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Rare Symptoms

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:

  • bladder irritation or urinary symptoms
  • blood in the stool
  • rectal bleeding


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, and bloating; constipation or diarrhea; thin stools; and nausea and 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 See a Doctor

Diverticulitis can be managed at home, but the symptoms always require a trip to the doctor or the hospital for evaluation and direction for treatment at home or in the hospital.

Abdominal pain should prompt a call to a doctor, but when it is severe and accompanied by 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.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

In most cases diverticulitis is uncomplicated, but with severe symptoms there is a risk of complications that can be serious and life-threatening. Even if symptoms are thought to be from diverticulitis because it has happened before, calling a doctor is important in order to get the correct treatment and to ensure that more serious problems aren’t going to occur. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does a diverticulitis attack feel like?

    A diverticulitis attack typically involves abdominal pain on the left side. It may also include a change in bowel habits with either constipation or diarrhea, fever, nausea, or vomiting.

  • What foods aggravate diverticulitis?

    When you are having a diverticulitis flare-up, it is recommended to avoid high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruit and vegetable skin, nuts, seeds, beans, and popcorn.

  • When should you go to the ER with stomach pain?

    Severe abdominal pain accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, or rectal bleeding should be seen immediately.

Was this page helpful?
4 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.
  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & causes of diverticular disease. Updated May 2016.

  2. Imaeda H, Hibi T. The burden of diverticular disease and its complications: West versus east. Inflamm Intest Dis. 2018;3(2):61-68. doi:10.1159/000492178

  3. Onur MR, Akpinar E, Karaosmanoglu AD, Isayev C, Karcaaltincaba M. Diverticulitis: a comprehensive review with usual and unusual complications. Insights Imaging. 2017;8(1):19-27. doi:10.1007/s13244-016-0532-3

  4. Cleveland Clinic. What foods should you eat—and avoid—on a diverticulitis diet? Updated November 20, 2020.

Additional Reading