Some people develop pouches along the wall of the colon as they get older. The pouches, called diverticuli, usually cause no symptoms. If the pouches become blocked, an infection may occur known as diverticulitis. This causes lower abdominal pain and fever. If not treated, it can become a serious condition, causing an abscess to form inside the pouch. The abscess may block the instestinal tract even or rupture, spreading infection throughout the abdomen.

When treatment is started early, oral antibiotics alone may be enough to cure diverticulitis. This method is tried first. However, if you do not improve or if your condition worsens while you are trying oral antibiotics, it will be necessary to admit you to the hospital for IV antibiotics. Severe cases may require surgery.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for your diverticulitis at home:

  • During the acute illness, rest and follow a low-fiber diet:

    • Foods to Include: flake cereal, mashed potatoes, pancakes, waffles, pasta, white bread, rice, applesauce, bananas, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, tofu, cooked vegetables without seeds.

    • Foods to Avoid: bran, wheat germ, bread or cereal with nuts, wheatgerm flour, brown or wild rice, corn, corn meal, corn bread, fruits with skins; raw vegetables.

  • Take antibiotics exactly as directed. Do not miss any doses or stop taking the medication, even if you feel better.

  • Monitor your temperature and report any rising temperature to your doctor.

Preventing future attacks

Once you have had an episode of diverticulitis, you are at risk of having a recurrence. After you have recovered from this episode, you may be able to reduce your risk by eating a high-fiber diet (20–35 gm/day of fiber). This cleans out the colon pouches that already exist and prevent new ones from forming. Foods high in fiber includes fresh fruits and edible peelings, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, whole grain cereals, breads with nuts or seeds, dried beans and peas, bran.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your doctor as advised or sooner if you are not improving in the next two days.

When to seek medical care

Get prompt medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your health care provider

  • Repeated vomiting or swelling of the abdomen

  • Weakness, dizziness, light-headedness

  • Increasing abdominal pain that becomes severe or spreads to your back

  • Pain that moves to the right lower abdomen

  • Rectal bleeding (red, black or maroon color of the stools)

  • Unexpected vaginal bleeding