Crohn’s disease causes chronic inflammation and erosion of the intestines or bowel. There are five types of Crohn’s disease, each affecting different parts of the digestive tract and involving several treatment options.
There’s no known cause of Crohn’s disease, which can affect different regions of the bowel, stomach, or intestines. Experts think the cause may involve the immune system reacting to food or bacteria in the intestines or bowel lining. They think this reaction causes the uncontrolled inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease.
Treatment depends on the type and severity of the disease. Each of the five types of Crohn’s disease involves its own symptoms and specific regions of the digestive tract:
- granulomatous colitis
- gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease
Sometimes, people can have more than one type of Crohn’s disease at the same time. This means Crohn’s disease may affect several parts of the digestive tract at once. Read on to learn more about each type.
Many people with Crohn’s disease live with ileocolitis. This form of Crohn’s disease causes inflammation and irritation of the ileum (the lower part of the small intestine) and colon. Those with ileocolitis may experience symptoms such as:
Like ileocolitis, ileitis causes inflammation and irritation of the ileum, but it doesn’t affect the colon. The symptoms of ileitis are the same as those of ileocolitis.
But people with ileitis may also develop fistulas (inflammatory abscesses) in the lower-right section of the abdomen.
Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease affects the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Those with this form of Crohn’s disease often experience nausea, lack of appetite, and weight loss.
People with gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease may also vomit if small parts of the bowel become blocked. This is because of intestinal inflammation. As a result, they can also have difficulty eating and may lose weight.
Jejunoileitis occurs in the jejunum, or the second part of the small intestine, where it causes areas of inflammation. Those with jejunoileitis may experience symptoms such as:
- cramps after meals
- abdominal discomfort that can sometimes be severe
This type of Crohn’s disease affects the colon only, which is the main part of the large intestine. It can cause fistulas, ulcers, and abscesses to form around the anus. It can also cause symptoms including:
If you have symptoms that may indicate a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like Crohn’s disease, your doctor will ask you to describe them, and they’ll perform a physical exam.
Your symptoms may point to the type of Crohn’s disease you have, or they may indicate another IBD, such as ulcerative colitis.
To confirm the diagnosis, you’ll need to get some diagnostic tests, such as:
- an X-ray of your upper and lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract
- an upper endoscopy
- a chromoendoscopy, which uses a dye to highlight changes in your intestine lining
- a colonoscopy
- a biopsy of your colon or GI tract
- an MRI or CT scan of your small intestine
People with Crohn’s disease usually don’t experience symptoms all the time. Instead, you may experience times when the disease is active and causes severe symptoms mixed with times when there are no symptoms (known as remission).
Several treatment strategies can help you manage your Crohn’s disease.
When your Crohn’s disease is active, your doctor will try to soothe the symptoms and stop inflammation. They’ll also address any nutritional deficiencies caused by limited digestion.
Most doctors start treatment by prescribing medications. These can include:
- antidiarrheal drugs
Your doctor may also prescribe dietary supplements if you have a nutritional deficiency.
Sometimes, those with Crohn’s disease develop complications, such as:
- intestinal obstruction
In these cases, when medication isn’t effective, you may need surgery to remove the affected part of your bowel. Surgery isn’t a cure for the disease, but it can help some people stay in remission and symptom-free for several years at a time.
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, 18% of people living with Crohn’s will eventually require surgery, and 31% of people may need a second surgery a decade later.
Even when your Crohn’s disease is in remission, it’s important to know how to manage it so you can avoid severe flare-ups and prevent long-term negative effects on your digestive tract.
Discomfort from Crohn’s disease can make it harder to exercise regularly and eat certain foods. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet.
It’s also important to try to
Check out this nutrition guide for Crohn’s disease.
It’s not always easy living with the pain and discomfort Crohn’s disease can cause. But it’s possible to lead an active, full life, even with this condition. A few strategies can help you cope with the symptoms in your day-to-day life and maintain a regular daily routine. The strategies include:
- finding the locations of restrooms in advance
- packing extra supplies, such as clothing and wipes
- consulting your doctor before making any major travel plans
Joining a Crohn’s disease support and educational group may help you better understand how to manage your condition.
Are there different levels of Crohn’s disease?
In addition to different types of Crohn’s disease, it’s also possible to have different disease patterns. Luminal Crohn’s disease describes changes to the intestinal lining due to inflammation the disease causes.
Fibrostenosing Crohn’s involves strictures, or narrowing of the intestine, that can lead to a bowel blockage. Penetrating Crohn’s causes fistulae between the inflamed intestine and other body parts.
What is the most common Crohn’s disease?
The most common form of Crohn’s disease is Ileocolitis, with a frequency rate of 50%, according to a 2017 research review.
What is the rarest type of Crohn’s disease?
A less common form of Crohn’s disease is gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease. It has a frequency rate of only
Things that could negatively affect your outlook if you’re living with the disease include your lifestyle, diet, age, and type of symptoms. But you can live a full, active life with the right treatment and interventions.