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Diagnosis and treatment - Diverticular disease and diverticulitis

Your GP may want to rule out other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, coeliac disease or bowel cancer.

These often have similar symptoms to diverticular disease.


To diagnose diverticular disease and diverticulitis, you may have:

  • blood tests
  • a colonoscopy
  • a CT scan


A colonoscopy is an examination of your large bowel. The doctor puts a thin tube with a small camera and light on it (colonoscope) into your bottom and along your bowel.

You will have a laxative before the test to help clear out your bowel. The doctor will look for diverticula or signs of diverticulitis.

A colonoscopy should not be painful but can feel uncomfortable.

You may have a sedative before the test to help you relax.

CT scan

A CT scan is a type of x-ray. You may have a CT instead of a colonoscopy or along with a colonoscopy. This is called a CT colonoscopy or virtual colonoscopy.

If you have a CT colonoscopy, the scan is done after you've had a laxative.


While the symptoms of diverticular disease and diverticulitis are similar, treatment is different.

Treating diverticular disease

Treatment for diverticular disease includes a high-fibre diet, paracetamol and laxatives.


Adding more fibre to your diet may help ease the symptoms of diverticular disease.

Generally, adults should aim to eat 30g of fibre a day.

Good sources of fibre include:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • beans and pulses
  • nuts
  • cereals
  • starchy foods (for example, potatoes and bread)

Fibre supplements are available from pharmacists and health food shops. You buy them as sachets of powder that you mix with water.

Slowly increase your fibre intake over a few weeks and drink plenty of fluids. This can help stop you getting side effects linked with a high-fibre diet, such as bloating.


You can use paracetamol to relieve pain.

Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen regularly as they can cause tummy upsets. Ask a pharmacist about painkillers.

Talk to your GP if paracetamol alone is not working.

Your GP may prescribe a bulk-forming laxative. This will help ease constipation or diarrhoea.

Treating diverticulitis

Treatment for diverticulitis includes a low-fibre diet, antibiotics, treatment in hospital and surgery.


Your GP may recommend a fluid-only diet for a few days until your symptoms improve.

While you're recovering, you should have a very low-fibre diet to rest your digestive system.

When the symptoms have eased, you can move to a higher-fibre diet. Aim for about 30g of fibre a day.


You can usually treat diverticulitis at home. Your GP may prescribe antibiotics.

You can take paracetamol to help relieve any pain. Talk to your GP if paracetamol alone is not working.

Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen, as they can cause stomach upsets.

More serious cases of diverticulitis may need hospital treatment. In hospital, you may get antibiotics and fluids directly into a vein (intravenous drip).

You may also be prescribed a stronger painkiller if paracetamol is not helping.


An abscess is a common complication of diverticulitis. An abscess is a pus-filled cavity or lump in the tissue. You may need surgery to drain an abscess.

Sometimes you will need surgery to treat other types of complications. This could be, for example, a blockage in your bowel.

Surgery usually involves removing the affected section of your large bowel. This is known as a colectomy.

After a colectomy, you may need a temporary or permanent colostomy. This is where one end of your bowel is brought out onto the surface of your tummy.


Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of surgery.

Page last reviewed: 8 August 2023
Next review due: 8 August 2026