Diverticular Disease

What is diverticular disease?

Diverticulum refers to a small pouch that bulges mainly out of the bowel, usually large bowel. Diverticula refers to more than one diverticulum  

  • Diverticulosis – refers to the presence of diverticulum/diverticula with no symptoms
  • Diverticular disease – refers to symptoms from diverticulum/diverticula but without infection or inflammation of the diverticulum

What causes diverticular disease?

The exact cause of diverticula and diverticular disease is unknown but there are risk factors for the formation of diverticulum such as:

  • Increased age
  • Low fibre diet
  • Genetics
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

What are the symptoms of diverticular disease?

Most patients experience no symptoms and diverticula are found incidentally on imaging tests, but some may experience the following:

  • intermittent colicky (crampy) tummy pain, usually left sided which may be triggered by eating and is relieved by opening bowels or passing wind
  • change in bowel habit (diarrhoea or constipation)
  • bloating

How is Diverticular Disease Diagnosed?

Depending on your symptoms, tests may be done to rule out other conditions. Diverticular disease is confirmed by visualising the colon. This can be done by:

  • CT scan
  • Colonoscopy or Flexible sigmoidoscopy – a thin tube with a camera at the end, is passed through the back passage to visualise the bowel

How is Diverticular Disease Treated?

Uncomplicated diverticular disease can be managed through diet and lifestyles changes to help relieve symptoms such as:

  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet
  • High fibre diet – slowly introduce more fibre in your diet such as fruit, vegetables, brown rice, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and other wholemeal grains
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Stop smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Regular exercise

There are no specific drug treatments, but the following may sometimes be used:

  • Simple painkillers (paracetamol). Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid analgesia (such as codeine) as these can make symptoms worse
  • Bulk forming agents may be prescribed by the doctor

What are the Complications of Diverticular Disease?

  • Diverticular bleeds – severe bleeding from the back passage (rectal). These are usually painless and may require emergency blood transfusion
  • Diverticulitis – refers to a condition where the diverticula become inflamed, usually due to infection. This can result in constant, severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, mucus and bleeding from the back passage (rectal) or blood or slime (mucus) in your stool. If diverticulitis is severe enough, it can result in other complications such as:
  • blockage in your bowel
  • bursting (perforation) of diverticulum which can result in a serious and severe infection called peritonitis
  • collection of pus (abscess) in your bowel
  • an abnormal connection from your bowel to another organ such as the bladder or vagina

If you develop severe or constant tummy pain, fever, vomiting, bleeding from the back passage, blood or mucus (slime) in your stool, are unable to open your bowels or are unable to pass wind, develop confusion, difficulties with breathing or you start to feel generally unwell, you should seek urgent medical attention

Please also consult your doctor or GP if you have a  sudden change in your normal bowel habit even if you are known to have diverticular disease, as this could indicate a new problem

What if I have further Questions?

If you would like further information or have any questions after reading this, please consult your doctor, nurse or your GP. Further information can be found on the NHS website.

Contact information

Endoscopy Unit
West Middlesex University Hospital
Twickenham Road

Mon-Fri, 8am – 6pm

T: 020 8321 2585/5191 (Nursing Station)
T: 020 8321 5752/6420 (Endoscopy Department)

The Endoscopy Unit is located on the ground floor of the Main Building, in the East Wing

Further information

If you would like further information or have any questions after reading this, please consult your doctor, nurse or your GP. Further information can be found on the NHS website:

Diverticular disease and diverticulitis - NHS (www.nhttps://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diverticular-disease-and-diverticulitis/hs.uk)

Patient Advice & Liaison Service (PALS)

If you have concerns or wish to give feedback about services, your care or treatment, you can contact the PALS office on the Ground Floor of the hospital just behind the main reception.

Alternatively, you can send us your comments or suggestions on one of our comment cards, available at the PALS office, or on a feedback form on our website Send us feedback — Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (chelwest.nhs.uk).

We value your opinion and invite you to provide us with feedback.

Chelsea Site:

T: 0203 315 6727
E: Chelwest.cwpals@nhs.net

West Middlesex Site:

T: 0208 321 6261

E: Chelwest.complaints.team@nhs.net

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
NHS Foundation Trust
369 Fulham Road
SW10 9NH
T: 020 3315 8000
W: www.chelwest.nhs.uk