Diverticulitis causes pea-sized, bulging pouches -- diverticula -- to form in the inner lining of the colon or large intestine and become infected and inflamed. Diverticulitis is distinct from diverticulosis, a condition where bulging pouches form in the colon but are not inflamed. In some cases of diverticulitis, the diverticula grow and place pressure on the internal walls of the colon. This can lead to serious digestive complications, such as rectal bleeding and blockages. Diverticulosis, the non-inflammatory condition, affects up to half of Americans by the time they reach 60. At one time, researchers believed up to 25% of people with diverticulosis develop diverticulitis, but a more recent study suggests the secondary conditions affects as few as five percent. The exact cause for the formation of these pouches is unknown. Usually, patients with diverticulitis experience elevated white blood cell counts, abdominal pain, bloating, fever, cramping, and tenderness.
Abdominal pain, which may persist for several days, is a common symptom of diverticulitis. People may experience abdominal distention, changes to bowel habits, and painful cramps. The pain mostly occurs in the lower left side of the belly. Some people, particularly those of Asian descent, experience pain on the right side due to the involvement of the right side of the colon.
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