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Since diverticula alone don’t usually cause any problems, for many people they are discovered during a routine screening exam for colorectal cancer or various tests that are checking for other intestinal problems.  

On the flip side diverticulitis is generally diagnosed during an acute attack. 
Your doctor will ask you a variety of questions about your symptoms, history of medical conditions and surgeries, in addition to your lifestyle and habits.  Be careful because the symptoms of diverticulitis can be similar to the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, appendicitis, or pelvic inflammatory disease.  The doctors have to be careful to correctly diagnose the correct condition using at least one if not more of the following tests. 
Your health care provider may take x-rays or other diagnostic images of organs in your abdomen to identify the cause of your symptoms.

  • Palpation Test: A touch and pressure exam of the abdomen will usually help to expose any tenderness to touch, to protect the tender area a persons abdominal muscles will contract strongly.
  • Digital Rectal Examination: The doctor will insert a gloved finger into your rectum to try to find a cause for bleeding, pain, or blockage.
  • Barium Enema:  An x-ray image is taken first, then a tube connected to a bag of barium liquid is gently inserted in the rectum and the barium released into the colon showing a sharp image on to the next x-ray of the digestive tract to look for any abnormalities.
  • CT Scan: Very similar to an x-ray except this give a much clearer picture of the organs and can provide a lot more useful information.  This test does take longer and is a bit more expensive, but worth it to get a better answer.
    When a practitioner is suspicious of diverticulitis as the cause for the patient's symptoms, he or she will most likely avoid the following types of tests which are generally used to diagnose gastrointestinal disorders. These include barium enema and endoscopy, and a few others. The concern is that the increased pressure exerted on the intestine during these exams may increase the likelihood of intestinal perforation. After the diverticulitis had been cleared up with medical treatment, these examinations may be performed in order to learn the extent of the patient's disease.
  • Colonoscopy or Sigmoidoscopy: A flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end, called an endoscope, is inserted into your rectum and up into your colon. This gives a direct view of the inner lining of the colon and rectum. The procedure is relatively painless and usually takes 30-45 minutes. You may be given a sedative medication to relax you for the procedure.
  • Angiography involves inserting a tiny tube through an artery in the leg, and moving it up into one of the major arteries of the gastrointestinal system. A particular chemical (contrast medium) which will show up on x-ray films is injected, and the area of bleeding is located by looking for the area where the contrast is leaking into the interior (lumen) of the intestine.
  • A procedure called endoscopy provides another method for examining the colon and locating the site of bleeding. In endoscopy, a small, flexible scope (endoscope) is inserted through the rectum and into the intestine. The scope usually bears a fiber-optic camera, which allows the view through this endoscope to be projected onto a television screen. The operator can introduce the endoscope further and further through the intestine to find the location of the bleeding.
  • Some blood tests may be run to see how your kidneys and liver are functioning in addition to look for signs of blood loss and infection.
  • Other tests may be done to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing similar symptoms.
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