Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Diverticular Disease

The exact cause of diverticular disease is unknown, but it appears to be related to a diet lacking in fiber, which can cause constipation. Straining to move your bowels can cause diverticula, small pouches, to form at weak spots along the colon wall. 

People with the following risk factors are more likely to develop diverticular disease:

  • Age 50 or older
  • Male
  • Obese
  • Sedentary (inactive) lifestyle
  • Smoke
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Diagnosing diverticular disease

Many people don’t realize they have diverticulosis until they have a screening colonoscopy after age 50. When pain and inflammation become a problem, diverticulitis may be diagnosed with:

  • X-rays: X-ray images can indicate the location and severity of the infection.
  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): In this exam, the health care provider inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate for abnormal areas. The DRE takes just a few seconds. 
  • A stool sample: This lab test checks for abnormal bacteria and parasites in your digestive tract. 
  • CT scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images of your intestines. 
  • Virtual colonoscopy: A CT scan can be used in conjunction with air and contrast dye to perform a virtual colonoscopy. 
  • Lower GI (barium enema): A series of X-rays are taken after you have received an enema containing barium, a contrast material that coats your colon and shows up well on X-rays.
  • Colonoscopy: An endoscope (long, flexible tube) with a lighted camera goes through colon, allowing your physician to view the lining. A sigmoidoscopy uses the same technology but examines only the sigmoid colon (the lower third).