There are 5 types of Crohn’s disease, each described by the location of the inflammation in the gastrointestinal system and the symptoms caused:
- Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease
- Crohn’s granulomatous colitis
Let’s look at the symptoms, causes, and treatment for the 5 types of Crohn’s disease.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affecting more than three million adults and the number is increasing. If you’re suffering from abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss, you may suffer from Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease leads to an infection of the digestive tract. The disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, but most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (ileum) and the beginning of the colon. Crohn’s disease can also skip intestinal segments, leaving normal patches in between the affected segments. In severe cases, the inflammation can spread throughout the digestive system, leading to a very uncomfortable and debilitating illness.
This illness can occur at any age, but typically adults between the ages of 20 to 30 are affected. Unfortunately, we’re not completely sure what causes this illness. At one point, diet or stress was suspected, but science has advanced and we now know that these are triggers, not the underlying cause of this disease. Some of the suspected causes of Crohn’s disease include an abnormal immune system response to a virus or bacteria in the colon or even a family history of the disease.
We have identified some of the factors that put you at risk for developing Crohn’s, however. They include cigarette smoking and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium.
Crohn’s disease alone is difficult enough, but this disease can also cause complications that affect the entire body, including:
- Anal fissures or tears
- Blood clots
- Bowel obstructions
- Colon cancer
- Fistulas or abscesses
- Liver disease
- Skin disorders
- Ulcers in your intestines
While there is no recognized cure for this illness, there are treatments available to help you cope with the disease, depending on the type of Crohn’s that you or your loved one is experiencing.
What Are the Five Types of Crohn’s Disease?
Ileocolitis affects the last segment of the small intestine called the ileum along with the top part of the colon, or large intestine. Ileocolitis is the most common form of Crohn’s disease. The symptoms of this Crohn’s type include diarrhea, cramping, abdomen pain, and severe weight loss.
Ileitis causes inflammation in the ileum, which is the longest and final segment of the small intestine. This part of your gastrointestinal system plays a key role in the absorption of vitamin B12 and bile salts, which help with water absorption in the large intestine. The symptoms of ileitis are the same as ileocolitis, however, you may also develop inflammatory abscesses or fistulas within the lower-right side of your abdomen.
Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease affects the stomach and the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum). When food enters the stomach, it mixes with stomach acid and then moves into the duodenum. There, the food mixes further with digestive juice and bile, which is a key part of absorbing minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. Patients that experience gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease experience weight loss, nausea, and a loss of appetite.
Jejunoileitis occurs in the jejunum, which is the section just past the duodenum in the small intestine. Like the duodenum, the jejunum plays an important role in digesting food nutrients and hydration into your body. If you suffer from jejunoileitis, you may experience cramping after meals, diarrhea, and general abdominal discomfort. Like ileitis, fistulas may develop in this section of the intestine.
Crohn’s granulomatous colitis affects the main part of the large intestine called the colon. When food hits this section of the gastrointestinal tract it is mostly water, which is absorbed by the colon. Any leftover material moves to the rectum and is expelled as stool. Crohn’s granulomatous colitis causes general inflammation in this area that can manifest as abscesses, fistulas, and ulcers around the anus. The symptoms of this type of Crohn’s disease include diarrhea, joint pain, rectal bleeding, and even skin lesions.
How Do I Know if I Have Crohn’s Disease?
If you have the primary symptoms; pain, diarrhea, nausea, loss of energy, or weight loss, you should see your doctor. Many times, the pain from Crohn’s begins around an hour after eating. The pain can be moderate or severe, concentrating most heavily around the naval and/or the lower abdomen. You may experience bloating after eating, particularly around certain types of foods. Watch for fever, skin redness, or any localized swelling, which can be a sign of an intestinal blockage. In this case, seek immediate medical care.
Crohn’s disease is complex to diagnose because each type of Crohn’s manifests different symptoms. Also, Crohn’s isn’t confined to one part of the gastrointestinal tract. To diagnose this illness, your doctor will likely conduct a thorough physical exam and history. The goal is to rule out other forms of disease that could masquerade as Crohn’s. Your doctor may over a variety of testing to diagnose Crohn’s, including:
- Blood tests
- Endoscopy or enteroscopy
- CT or MRI scan
- Stool studies
Determining that Crohn’s is the culprit may take some time to be sure of the diagnosis. However, once the diagnosis is achieved, there are several treatments available to help lessen the symptoms of Crohn’s.
What are the Treatments for Crohn’s Disease?
There is currently no cure for Crohn’s but there are several treatments available to reduce the inflammation that is the cause of your pain and discomfort. With the right treatment remission from symptoms is highly possible.
Depending on the type of Crohn’s disease, treatment could consist of:
- Corticosteroid medications
- Immune system suppressors
- Nutrition therapy
- Pain relievers
- Vitamins and supplements
Changes in diet and stress levels or other lifestyle changes can also help you or your loved one cope with the disease.
The team at Gastroenterology Associates of Southwest Florida, P.A., is highly experienced in diagnosing and fighting Crohn’s disease. Contact us if you’re experiencing symptoms and get the help you need.