How is diverticulosis diagnosed?

Because most people with diverticulosis don’t have symptoms, it’s usually found from other tests that are done for an unrelated reason.

How is diverticulitis diagnosed?

If you have symptoms of diverticulitis, it’s important to be seen by your healthcare provider to get the correct diagnosis.

First, your healthcare provider will ask you about your medical history including your current symptoms, the types of foods you normally eat, how often you have bowel movements and other questions about your bowel movements, and will review any medications you are currently taking. Your healthcare provider will check your abdomen for pain and tenderness.

Other tests that may be performed or ordered to help diagnose your condition include:

  • Blood test: Your blood is checked for signs of infection, such as a high white blood cell count.
  • Stool sample: Your stool sample is checked for the presence of abnormal bacteria or parasites as possible causes of your infection, abdominal pain, blood in stool, diarrhea or your other symptoms.
  • Digital rectal exam: In this physical exam, your healthcare provider gently inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to feel for any problems in your anus or rectum.
  • CT scan: A CT scan can show infected or inflamed diverticula and also reveal the severity of diverticulitis.
  • Barium enema (also called a lower gastrointestinal tract radiography): In this test, a liquid containing barium is injected into your anus. The liquid coats the inside of your colon, which helps make any problems in your colon more visible on X-rays.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: In this exam, a thin flexible tube with a light on the end is inserted into your rectum and moved into your sigmoid colon. The tube is connected to a video camera. The camera allows a visual inspection of your sigmoid colon (where most diverticula form) and rectum.
  • Colonoscopy: In this exam, the full length of your colon can be examined. A thin, flexible, lighted tube with a camera, called a colonoscope, is inserted through your rectum and into your colon. During a colonoscopy, your colon is checked for abnormal growths, sores, ulcers, bleeding or other problems that could cause changes in bowel habits or abdominal pain. Tissue samples can be taken and polyps can be removed.
  • Angiography: If you have rapid, heavy rectal bleeding, this procedure helps find where the bleeding is coming from. During this test, the arteries that supply the colon are injected with a harmless dye that allows the source of the bleeding to be seen.

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