To diagnose diverticular disease, the doctor will likely do the following things:
- Ask about your medical history
- Perform a physical exam
- Perform one or more diagnostic tests.
Because most people do not have symptoms of diverticulitis, diverticulosis is often found through tests ordered for another ailment.
When taking a medical history, the doctor may ask about bowel habits, symptoms, pain, diet, and medications. The physical exam usually involves a digital rectal exam. To perform this test, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to detect tenderness, blockage, or blood. The doctor may check stool for signs of bleeding and test blood for signs of infection; he or she may also order x-rays or other tests.
Key information about diverticulosis and diverticulitis includes:
- Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches, called diverticula, bulge outward through weak spots in the colon (large intestine). The pouches form when pressure inside the colon builds, usually because of constipation.
- Most people with diverticulosis never have any discomfort or symptoms.
(Click Diverticulitis Symptoms for more information.)
- The most likely cause of diverticulosis is a low-fiber diet because it increases constipation and pressure inside the colon.
- For most people with diverticulosis, eating a high-fiber diet is the only treatment needed. You can increase your fiber intake by eating these foods: whole grain breads and cereals; fruit like apples and peaches; vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, spinach, carrots, asparagus, and squash; and starchy vegetables like kidney beans and lima beans.
(Click Diverticulitis Diet for more information.)
- Diverticulitis occurs when the pouches become infected or inflamed and cause pain and tenderness around the left side of the lower abdomen.