Diverticular disease is a condition that generally effects the colon (also known as the large bowel or large intestine) but it can in fact involve anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract including the oesophagus, stomach and small bowel.

It is the presence of “pockets” or “pouches” that push out from the wall of the bowel. The most common part of the bowel that is affected is the sigmoid colon. This is a segment of bowel down on the lower, left side of the abdomen. There can be very few or many pockets and they can vary in size from very small (smaller than a pea) to very large (the size of a large marble).

It can affect younger people, but it usually starts to appear in people in their 40’s. By the age of 50, it is thought that 40% of the Australian population will have these pockets and by the age of 80, it is thought as many as 70% of the population will be affected.

Strictly speaking, the presence of these pockets without any symptoms is referred to as “diverticulosis”. It is only when you develop symptoms that it is considered “diverticular disease”. When these pockets become inflamed, it is called “diverticulitis”. For the purpose of this discussion however, diverticular disease means all of the above.

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