Symptoms of Diverticulitis

Diverticular disease is a condition of the large intestine in which weak spots in the intestinal wall bulge outward to form tiny sacs or pockets. Diverticulitis occurs when these pockets become infected or inflamed. The symptoms of diverticulitis range in severity and can include pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and more.

It is common to get diverticular disease as you age; 50% of people over age 60 have it. However, diverticulitis is much less common. Less than 5% of people with diverticulosis (the uninfected pockets) develop diverticulitis (infected pockets).

In this article, learn more about the signs and symptoms of diverticulitis.

An illustration with common symptoms of diverticulitis

Illustration by Zoe Hansen for Verywell Health

What Triggers Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis happens when the intestinal pockets from diverticulosis become infected. In this way, it is considered a complication of diverticulosis.

The exact cause of diverticulitis is unknown. However, experts believe that the following factors contribute to the disease:

  • Genes: Certain genes may increase diverticulitis risk.
  • Lifestyle factors: Diet, physical activity, smoking behavior, and certain medications can impact your risk level.
  • Other factors: Your provider may consider your immune, gut, and colon health to determine if you are at risk for diverticulitis.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Diverticulitis?

The symptoms of diverticular disease can be chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term). Diverticulitis is typically associated with the onset of acute symptoms.

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of diverticulitis and frequently occurs in the lower left side of the stomach. It can range from occasional and mild to constant and severe. In some cases, the pain increases as the infection progresses, whereas in other cases, intense pain may occur suddenly without warning.

Bowel Changes

Changes in your bowel habits can be a symptom of diverticulitis. This includes constipation and, less commonly, diarrhea.

Fever and Chills

Fever and chills can be symptoms of diverticulitis. This is a sign that your body may struggle with temperature control as it fights off an infection in your intestine.

Nausea and Vomiting

You may experience nausea and vomiting with diverticulitis. This is another sign of an active infection in the diverticula (the pockets in your intestinal wall).


In extremely rare cases, rectal bleeding may be a symptom or complication of diverticulitis. You may notice blood in your stool, or when you wipe after a bowel movement, you see blood or mucus on the toilet paper.

What Are the Complications and Risk Factors of Diverticulitis?

Certain people may be at higher risk of developing diverticular disease than others. Risk factors for diverticular disease include:

However, not everybody with diverticular disease has diverticulitis. Diverticular disease is the umbrella term for diverticulosis (uninfected intestinal pockets) and diverticulitis (infected or inflamed intestinal pockets).

The risk factors for diverticulitis are less understood. The current research provides various theories, but additional research is needed to confirm the exact cause and risk factors.

Diverticulitis can lead to dangerous complications, so it is important to recognize the symptoms and get a prompt diagnosis. Complications from diverticulitis include:

  • Abscesses: Accumulation of pus and bacteria that is formed into a separate pocket as the immune system attempts to protect the rest of the body
  • Colonic stricture: A narrowing of the colon in certain areas
  • Fistulas: An abnormal passageway that connects two body cavities (or the skin) that are generally not connected (In the case of diverticulitis, fistulas between the colon and bladder are the most common. However, the colon may also be connected to the uterus, vagina, or other areas of the intestines.)
  • Peritonitis: Inflammation or irritation of the inner lining of the abdomen
  • Rectal bleeding: Blood found in the stool or when wiping after a bowel movement

Signs You Should See a Healthcare Provider or Seek Emergency Care

Contact your healthcare provider as soon as you have any diverticulitis symptoms. Receiving prompt treatment can minimize your risk of experiencing diverticulitis complications.

When to Seek Help for Diverticulitis

Contact a healthcare provider about possible diverticulitis if you experience abdominal pain, new constipation or diarrhea, fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting. You should seek emergency treatment if your pain is severe or you experience rectal bleeding.

What Is the Best Treatment for Diverticulosis?

Diverticulitis is diagnosed as uncomplicated or complicated based on the presence of abscesses or other complications. Treatment for diverticulitis varies by case. Some treatments for diverticulitis include the following:

  • Antibiotics: Your healthcare provider will prescribe medication based on factors like the severity of the infection and the status of your immune system.
  • Intravenous (IV) drips: If you are hospitalized for diverticulitis, you may require IV (through your veins) medication, hydration and nutrition; this has the added benefit of letting your intestines rest.
  • Short-term diets: Your healthcare provider may recommend a fluid-only or low-fiber diet for a few days as your infection improves.
  • Surgery: In rarer cases, your provider may recommend surgery. The type and extent of surgery depend on the severity of diverticulitis, your preferences, and unique risks and benefits.

Preventing Diverticulitis 

If you are diagnosed with diverticulosis, your healthcare provider may offer advice about reducing your chance of developing diverticulitis. These same steps can also prevent a future diverticulitis attack if you've already had one. Some actions you can take to avoid diverticulitis include:

Can Diverticulitis Go Away on Its Own? 

Uncomplicated diverticulitis, which occurs in 75% of cases, can go away on its own. Your provider may order a computed tomography (CT) scan to ensure there is no abscess to ensure it is safe for you to forego treatment.

In 95% of uncomplicated diverticulitis cases, infections will resolve in a week, although your healthcare provider may recommend a fluid-only or low-fiber diet during this time. In 5% of cases, treatment is required. People with uncomplicated diverticulitis who are at high risk for complications may require antibiotics.

Treatment is more common for complicated diverticulitis. In 80% of cases of complicated diverticulitis, the infection will resolve after a few weeks of antibiotic treatment. Surgery is necessary for 20% of people with complicated diverticulitis.


Diverticulitis is a complication of diverticular disease. Symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. It is important to seek help from a healthcare provider if you experience any of those symptoms. Emergency treatment is recommended for severe pain and rectal bleeding.

8 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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By Sarah Bence
Sarah Bence, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and freelance writer. She specializes in a variety of health topics including mental health, dementia, celiac disease, and endometriosis.