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Definition of Diverticular Disease

By Michael C. DiMarino, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University

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

By far, the most common site for diverticula to develop is in the large intestine. Diverticula may also develop in the esophagus (see Esophageal Pouches (Diverticula)). Rarely, diverticula develop in the stomach and small intestine. Meckel diverticulum is the most common diverticular disease of the small intestine. It is present at birth in about 2 to 3% of people (see Meckel Diverticulum).

The presence of diverticula in the colon is called diverticulosis—a condition that tends to develop during middle age. If diverticula become inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis.