Harvard Women's Health Watch

Diverticular disease prevention and treatment

By age 60, about 40% of people have diverticular disease, a condition characterized by protruding pouches on the colon. It's thought that a low-fiber diet, obesity, and lack of exercise contribute to the disease.  Of those with diverticulosis, 30% will develop more serious forms of the disease, including diverticulitis (infected and inflamed diverticula) and diverticular bleeding (bleeding from a blood vessel near a diverticulum). It's unclear why some people develop these problems and others do not. Most diverticulitis can be treated with medications and rest, but 25% of cases lead to complications requiring surgery, including perforation of the colon, peritonitis (infection of the abdominal cavity), bowel obstruction, abscess, and fistula (an abnormal connection between the colon and nearby tissue).
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