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Your stomach pain, nausea, and fever may not be a stomach virus.
A light blue circle with a pink intestine running through. It enters at the left, goes almost all the way across, and loops back under itself to exit the circle at the bottom left. Inside the tube is a darker pink section with round protrusions that cause the outer tube to bulge. One of the bulges at the top is bright red and has four action lines emanating from it.
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Written by Shria Kumar, MD.
Therapeutic Endoscopy Fellow, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
Medically reviewed by
Last updated May 13, 2024

Diverticulitis quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have diverticulitis.

What is diverticulitis?

Sometimes the walls of the intestines become weak in certain spots. This is due to aging, irritation, and scarring (all very normal). If there’s pressure on the intestinal tract, from constipation for example, it causes bulges and creates little pouches. These pouches are called diverticula. They can become inflamed, swollen, and get infected. That leads to stomach pain, nausea, and sometimes a fever.

When diverticula pouches are inflamed, it’s called diverticulitis. It can happen anywhere in the lining of the large intestine, but usually, it’s in the lower part of the intestines. (Also known as the sigmoid colon because of its S-shape.)

What does a diverticulitis attack feel like?

The most common symptoms are sudden fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Main symptoms

Pro Tip

There is a difference between diverticulosis—just having diverticula, which is super common in people in the West as they age—and diverticulitis, which is an infection of a diverticula. —Dr. Shria Kumar

Causes of diverticulitis

Diverticulosis is mostly a problem in Western countries (Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, and South America). It is believed to be at least partly caused by the diet and lifestyle in these countries (more sedentary, more processed foods, more red meat, and not eating enough fiber). A lack of fiber can lead to constipation, which can put pressure on the walls of the intestine, leading to these outpouchings.

Risk factors of diverticulitis

Pro Tip

Most people in the US above age 65 have diverticulosis. And for most, it causes absolutely no symptoms or problems whatsoever. Those who develop diverticulitis (infection related to diverticulosis) can usually be managed by oral antibiotics alone. —Dr. Kumar

  • Living in the Western world (Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America).
  • Age (over 50 years).
  • Eating a low-fiber diet.
  • Long-standing constipation (not having regular bowel movements).
  • Eating too much red meat.
  • Obesity.
  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes.
  • Family history (genetics).

Next steps

If you have a fever and abdominal pain, call your doctor right away. They may refer you to a gastroenterologist (specializing in the digestive tract). If you have diverticulitis, it means you have an infection, and will need antibiotics.

If you’re dizzy, or can’t eat or drink, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room.

Dr. Rx

Ask your doctor: Do I need a colonoscopy? If you haven’t had a recent colonoscopy but have an episode of diverticulitis, you will need a colonoscopy to ensure that it was due to the diverticula infection and not another cause. —Dr. Kumar

What is the best treatment for diverticulitis?

You will be given antibiotics to treat the infection (the diverticulITIS). But this does not actually cure the diverticula pouches in the colon (called diverticulOSIS).

After taking antibiotics and the infection has gone away (your symptoms are better and your colon has had time to heal), your doctor will want to do a colonoscopy (in 4-6 weeks). A colonoscopy uses a long flexible tube with a camera to examine the colon. It is usually done in an outpatient facility under general anesthesia.

The doctor will check that the infection was not from something else like inflammatory bowel disease or cancer. If the colon looks healthy and the doctor sees diverticula pouches, it will confirm that you have diverticulitis.

Ready to treat your diverticulitis?

We show you only the best treatments for your condition and symptoms—all vetted by our medical team. And when you’re not sure what’s wrong, Buoy can guide you in the right direction.See all treatment options
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Is diverticulitis serious?

Some attacks of diverticulitis can get really bad. Sometimes complications develop if the infection is left untreated. These include severe infection (requiring hospitalization) or perforation (a hole forming) in the infected area.

If you’ve had diverticulosis before or have already been in the hospital for rectal bleeding, your doctor may suggest seeing a surgeon. While rare, sometimes the pouches, along with parts of the intestine, will need to be removed.


The best prevention is to reduce the risk of getting diverticula. Follow a healthy lifestyle: Eat a balanced, nutritious diet and exercise regularly. Make sure you have daily bowel movements.

  • Eat a high-fiber diet.
  • Drink enough water! This is a great way to prevent constipation.
  • Limit your red meat.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise—aim for 4 to 5 days a week for a total of at least 150 minutes.
  • Talk to your doctor if you don’t have daily bowel movements. This may seem normal for you, but you and your doctor together can decide if your bowel movements are adequate based on how often you go, how hard your bowel movements are, and your diet.
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The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Dr. Le obtained his MD from Harvard Medical School and his BA from Harvard College. Before Buoy, his research focused on glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer. Outside of work, Dr. Le enjoys cooking and struggling to run up-and-down the floor in an adult basketball league.

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