Symptoms of diverticulitis

Symptoms of diverticulitis

Symptoms of diverticulitis

What happens to the body?

A mild infection with the presence of few symptoms can sometimes resolve itself without treatment intervention. A sudden pain, most commonly felt on the lower left side of the abdomen often signals severe diverticulitis. Pain is typically persistent and worsens during the course of a few days if treatment is not sought out.

Many may also experience pain in the lower abdomen while recovering from a diverticulitis attack. This may not always indicate another attack, but is best examined by a medical doctor.

Signs and symptoms

Close-up on a young woman experiencing stomach pain or discomfort.As mentioned, diverticulosis does not typically present symptoms. Once an infection occurs, ‘non-specific symptoms’ (meaning those that are commonly found in an array of different digestive disorders) of diverticulitis develop.

Along with lower abdominal pain and tenderness, the following are typical symptoms of diverticulitis:

  • Nausea and / or vomiting
  • Fever and / or chills
  • Bloating (abdominal swelling or abdominal distension) and / or flatulence (gas)
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Mild rectal bleeding (bright red or maroon in colour, or clots)

It can happen that a fistula (an abnormal opening or connection between tissues / organs) develops between the colon and the urethra. If this occurs, air or stool (faeces) may be passed from the urethra, causing similar symptoms.

Other conditions which may also cause similar symptoms include a urinary tract infection or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

When to see the doctor?

Any symptoms experienced should be checked by a medical doctor. Inflammation in the body can worsen and cause a variety of other health complications, which can become serious. Any bleeding noted in stool or from the rectum must be examined by a medical professional. A doctor needs to check this even if bleeding stops or resolves on its own, and especially so if a steady flow of blood is experienced (which will require emergency examination).

A doctor will deem a person’s condition serious, especially if any of the below is experienced (for at least 3 days or more):

  • Persistent abdominal pain which worsens or intensifies when moving or coughing (especially in the lower left side)
  • A persistent fever
  • Persistent vomiting (a person cannot tolerate any amount of food or liquid)
  • A burning or painful sensation during urination
  • Gas or stool that passes through the urethra while urinating
  • Persistent cramping which does not ease after a bowel movement or passing of gas (flatulence)
  • Bleeding from the rectum and blood (a considerable amount that is more than a few streaks) in stool (faeces)
  • Stool that resembles black tar
  • Persistent constipation (which occurs for an extended period of time)
  • Signs of shock such as fainting, dizziness, weakness and lack of alertness (may indicate that a blister or sac is bleeding, known as diverticular bleeding)
  • An abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Persistent or recurring urinary tract infection

Who to see

Mild bloating, belly aches and gas pressure are normal after eating certain foods or while under a little stress. If these symptoms do not pass within a few days or worsen, it is best to consult a family physician (general practitioner / GP) to assess the root of the symptoms and diagnose accordingly. 

Other than an GP, medical professionals who can all diagnose and offer appropriate treatment for diverticulitis are:

  • A Physician’s assistant
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Internist
  • Specialists – Gastroenterologist or surgeon
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