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Definition of Diverticular Disease

By Joel A. Baum, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai ; Rafael Antonio Ching Companioni, MD, Icahn School of Medicine, Elmhurst Hospital Center

Diverticular disease is characterized by small, balloon-like sacs (diverticula) protruding through the layers of particular structures in the gastrointestinal tract (digestive tract).

A single sac is called a diverticulum. Two or more sacs are called diverticula.

By far, the most common site for diverticula to develop is in the large intestine (colon). Diverticula of the colon occur when the inner layers of the bowel protrude through the outer muscular layers.

Diverticula may also develop in the esophagus (see Esophageal Pouches (Diverticula)) and rarely in the stomach. Meckel diverticulum is a common diverticular disease of the small intestine. It is present at birth in about 2 to 3% of people.

The Digestive System

The presence of one or more diverticula in the colon is called diverticulosis. Diverticulosis is a condition that tends to develop during middle age.

If diverticula become inflamed, infected, or both, the condition is called diverticulitis.

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