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Most people who have diverticulosis will never develop diverticulitis. In people who do experience diverticulitis, symptoms can usually be managed with the right treatment and lifestyle modifications. About 25 percent of the time, though, diverticulitis will lead to complications; in some cases, these complications can be life-threatening. 

Morbidity

Common complications seen with diverticulitis include the following.

Diverticular bleeding

This complication happens when a blood vessel inside a diverticulum breaks into the colon and bleeds. Seen in diverticulosis and diverticulitis, this kind of bleeding (which often shows up as maroon or bright red blood in the stool) is often painless and can resolve on its own, but sometimes additional treatment is needed.

Fistula

A fistula is an abnormal hole or connection between two structures that aren’t normally connected, such as the intestine and bladder.

Bowel obstruction

This obstruction happens when the colon becomes so inflamed that the colonic tissue thickens and blocks stool from passing through.

Abscess

An abscess is a small, localized, pus-filled area near the colon, typically caused by a very small hole in the diverticulum. This hole allows bacteria to leak through.

Bowel perforation

A bowel perforation a larger puncture or tear in the diverticulum or colonic wall, through which bacteria and intestinal contents can spill out.

Peritonitis

This infection spreads throughout the abdominal cavity; it happens after bacteria and bowel spill out of a perforated bowel.

Sepsis

This complication is a dangerous widespread infection throughout the body; if left untreated it can lead to organ failure, coma, shock, and death.

Mortality

People who have a compromised immune system or other underlying health conditions like obesity, as well as people who smoke or use NSAIDS, may be more likely to experience severe or fatal complications of diverticulitis, including more complications following surgery. Prognosis is also considered poorer for people who are older.

Certain types of diverticulitis complications may be deadlier than others. For example, some research shows fewer than 2 percent of people with acute diverticulitis will develop peritonitis, but of these people as many as 20 percent will die as a result of this specific complication.

FAQ

How long can you live with diverticulitis?

It’s possible for a person with diverticulitis to live a normal lifespan. Factors that may affect a person’s lifespan after receiving a diagnosis of diverticulitis include whether they experience other complications and what their age and overall health status is.

Can a person die from diverticulitis?

It is possible to die of complications caused by diverticulitis, especially if there is a delay in treatment or if the person has other underlying health problems. 

Is diverticulitis serious?

Diverticulitis can sometimes be serious or even life-threatening, but not always. Many people who develop diverticulitis have only mild symptoms that resolve on their own. 

Can diverticulitis turn to cancer?

Diverticulitis cannot turn into cancer. However, colon cancer (also called colorectal cancer) can present with signs and symptoms that are similar to diverticulitis. That’s why it’s so important to see a doctor right away if you or a loved one notices any unusual signs or symptoms such as abdominal pain, bleeding from the rectum, or bloody stool. 

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately. To see our full medical disclaimer, visit our Terms of Use page.


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