IBS and Diverticulitis: Differences, Causes, Treatments – Healthline

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) refers to a group of symptoms that affect your digestive system. It often includes abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
Diverticulitis falls into a group of diseases called diverticular disease. It’s characterized by inflammation of bulging pouches in your digestive tract called diverticula.
Some studies suggest that IBS is more common among people with diverticular disease, but the connection still is not clear.
Keep reading to learn more about the similarities and differences between IBS and diverticulitis and how they may be linked.
IBS is a common gastrointestinal disease. It’s characterized by abdominal pain and changes in the frequency and quality of your bowel movements. Symptoms tend to flare up periodically.
How IBS develops still is not well understood. But it’s been linked to:
Diverticulitis is a condition that develops in your large intestine (also called your colon). It’s caused by an infection in a diverticulum, which is a weakened area of your colon wall that can bulge out and form a pocket or pouch. Diverticula can range from pea-size to much larger pockets.
Diverticulitis develops when one of these pockets becomes inflamed and infected by bacteria in stool that gets pushed into the diverticula. You may feel pain in your abdomen and may also feel nauseous and feverish.
People with diverticulitis in Western societies, such as the United States or Europe, are much more likely to develop diverticula on their left side. But people of Asian descent are more likely to develop diverticula on their right side.
Some people have both IBS and diverticulitis, and misdiagnosis of the two conditions is common. A 2020 study found that about 1 in 5 initial cases of diverticulitis diagnosed without imaging were misdiagnosed.
Some studies suggest that some people with diverticular disease are more likely to develop IBS. But more research is needed to fully understand the link.
A 2014 study found that diverticular disease on the left side or both sides was associated with a higher risk of IBS in a Japanese population. Right-sided diverticular disease was not associated with this risk.
A 2020 study evaluated the association between IBS and diverticulitis. The researchers found that diverticulitis was 3.95 times more common in people with IBS than people without IBS. They also found that IBS was associated with a higher recurrence of diverticulitis.
Both diverticulitis and IBS can cause abdominal pain or discomfort. IBS pain usually relieves after a bowel movement, while diverticulitis pain is constant.
Diverticulitis most often causes pain in the lower left area of the abdomen. People of Asian descent are more likely to develop pain in their right side.
People with diverticulitis tend to be over 40 years old. Most cases of IBS develop before the age of 50.
Symptoms shared by both conditions include:
Symptoms more likely with IBS include:
Symptoms more likely with diverticulitis include:
The exact cause of IBS still is not known. It’s thought that an overly sensitive colon or immune system may contribute to this condition. Some evidence suggests that IBS is more common in people with diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is caused by pouches in your large intestine that become inflamed and infected. These pouches can become inflamed or infected when bacteria or stool gets trapped in them.
Risk factors for diverticulitis include:
A doctor can diagnose IBS by:
To diagnose diverticulitis, a doctor will likely:
To help confirm their diagnosis, a doctor may perform additional tests, such as:
IBS does not have a cure. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding certain foods and following home remedies, may offer some relief. Medications can also help manage symptoms.
Mild diverticulitis can often be treated at home with rest and by avoiding foods that make symptoms worse. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Serious cases may require hospitalization or surgery.
You may be able to relieve your IBS symptoms by:
You may be able to ease diverticulitis symptoms by:
Incorporating the following habits into your daily life may help prevent or reduce symptoms of IBS and diverticulitis:
IBS and diverticulitis are both gastrointestinal conditions that can cause symptoms such as abdominal discomfort and changes to your bowel movements. But they are not the same condition and have different causes.
How or why IBS develops is not well understood. On the other hand, diverticulitis is caused by the inflammation of pouches that can develop within weakened parts of the large intestine. This can be a serious condition that requires hospitalization if the symptoms become severe.
If you think you may have one of these conditions, contact a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Once the condition has been accurately diagnosed, you can work with your doctor to build a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Last medically reviewed on April 22, 2022
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