Symptoms of Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis can be very similar, but they are two separate conditions. Diagnostic tests and procedures like a colonoscopy can help your doctor to know which condition you have.

Approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized for diverticulitis each year in the United States. For some of these individuals, their abdominal pains and bloody stools may have initially resembled Crohn’s disease.

But recognizing the difference between the two conditions isn’t always an easy task. Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis can be tricky to distinguish without medical testing.

This article will offer a comparison between Crohn’s and diverticulitis, providing a look at the differences that can help you and your healthcare team better identify the particular condition you might be experiencing.

Both Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis impact the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. However, they’re different conditions with separate reasons for pain.

Crohn’s disease is part of a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). While the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, it typically results in inflammation in the small intestine and colon.

You can learn more about Crohn’s disease in general at Healthline.

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Diverticulitis occurs when pouches called diverticula form in the GI tract and become inflamed and infected. Similarly to Crohn’s disease, more information about the exact causes of diverticulitis is needed, but the condition is more likely as individuals age and diverticula are more common.

More information about diverticulitis can be found on Healthline.

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While Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis can include many of the same symptoms, they can also include different symptoms.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how some elements of these conditions compare:

Crohn’s DiseaseDiverticulitis
abdominal painXX
blood in stoolsXX
nausea and vomiting XX
weight lossX
frequent need to use the bathroomX
unusual Bowels (constipation, diarrhea)XX (constipation is more common than diarrhea)
common age of onset20–39more common with aging (50+)

Left untreated, Crohn’s disease can eventually lead to bowel obstructions, fistulas, or even colon cancer.

Individuals with Crohn’s disease are at a higher risk for osteoporosis. They may also have difficulty with malnutrition and related complications like kidney stones.

If diverticulitis is left untreated, symptoms can progress to include a persistent fever and vomiting of all liquids and solids. Like Crohn’s disease, it can also lead to complications with obstructions, abscesses, and fistulas. In severe cases, it can lead to a perforation in the colon or life threatening sepsis.

One study compared the hospitalization burdens of individuals with diverticulitis and either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, another form of IBD. It found that the burdens were actually higher for those with the combination of diverticulitis and ulcerative colitis. Individuals with both diverticulitis and Crohn’s disease had a hospital burden similar to those who had diverticulitis without IBD.

Older research indicates that there is an overlap between IBD and diverticular disease.

It is possible that the presence of Crohn’s disease with diverticulosis puts an individual at greater risk for the development of diverticulitis.

However, that 2004 research is one of the only clinical studies focused on this issue and more research is needed.

There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but medication and diet changes can help to decrease inflammation and reduce symptoms.

You can learn more about the best diets for Crohn’s disease at Healthline here.

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Surgery to remove damaged portions of the digestive tract may be necessary in some cases.

Treatment for diverticulitis frequently includes diet changes like increasing the amount of fiber in one’s diet. It may also involve medications, including antibiotics if an infection is suspected. A needle drainage procedure or surgery to remove infected portions of the colon may be necessary in some more serious cases.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis can be very similar. However, these are two separate conditions. Diagnostic tests and procedures like a colonoscopy can help your doctor to know which condition you have.

There are still many unanswered questions about these conditions and more research into how they may be related is needed in the future. In the meantime, it’s important to notify your doctor if you show signs of either condition, so they can assist you in getting the proper diagnosis and treatment.