Crohn's Disease Types

Published: April 21, 2010

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Overview

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a condition that is frequently confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In actuality there conditions are separate and distinct with different causes and treatment options.

While irritable bowel syndrome tends to affect the lower part of the intestine tract, Crohn's disease can affect the entire digestive tract, which includes the stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), and rectum. Crohn's disease will impact the body's ability to digest food and absorb nutrients. Sometimes, the condition will also affect the mouth.

There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes inflammation in the large intestine. With this condition, inflammation occurs within the lining of the intestine, and ulcers occur as a result. Ulcerative colitis in the rectal area results in diarrhea. Crohn's disease produces symptoms that are similar to ulcerative colitis. Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract.

There are five different types of Crohn's disease:

Ileocolic Crohn's disease affects the part of the small intestine that is connected to the large intestine (the ileum) in addition to the large intestine and is responsible for nearly half of all cases. This type of Crohn's disease causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. Other accompanying conditions include fatigue, rashes, arthritis, problems concentrating, and memory loss.

Crohn's ileitis affects the ileum but not the large intestine. Crohn's ileitis is responsible for nearly one-third of Crohn's disease cases. A major side effect of ileitis is nutrition deficiency. For example, a Crohn's patient might have trouble absorbing essential vitamins such as vitamin B12. With vitamin B12 deficiency, several side effects can occur, including anemia and a tingling sensation in the hands and feet. If you have Crohn's ileitis, you are likely to experience your first flare-up as an adolescent or young adult before you turn 20. In extreme cases, the swelling within the small intestine will become extreme, causing a blockage or obstruction. In severe cases of a bowel obstruction, you may need emergency care. Almost always, these severe cases will require surgery. Factors including stress and diet can cause a flare-up.

Crohn's colitis affects the large intestine only. Crohn's colitis is responsible for one-fifth of Crohn's disease cases. This condition resembles ulcerative colitis, but the two conditions differ in several key ways. For example, Crohn's colitis can cause patchy lesions, while ulcerative colitis causes continuous lesions. With ulcerative colitis, the inflammation is superficial, but with Crohn's colitis, the inflammation is deep. Crohn's disease poses a higher risk to smokers than ulcerative colitis. While Crohn's disease is believed to be an autoimmune condition, the cause of ulcerative colitis is more uncertain. In some instances, however, it may not be possible to tell the difference between Crohn's colitis and ulcerative colitis.

Gastroduodenal Crohn's diseaseproduces symptoms of inflammation in the stomach and top of the small intestine, which is called the duodenum. Malnutrition is a common result of inadequate vitamin and nutrient absorption.

Jejunoileitis causes inflammation in the top half of the small intestine, which is called the jejunum. This type of swelling appears in the form of patches. Fistulas, abnormal connections in the digestive tract, are common among jejunoileitis patients. Fistulas cause infections to develop outside of the gastrointestinal tract. People with jejunoileitis may experience cramping, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea.

In addition to the five types of Crohn's disease, there are 3 classifications: structuring, penetrating, and inflammatory. Stricturing diseases cause the bowel to become narrow, resulting in bowel obstructions and changes to feces. Penetrating disease damages the passageways between the bowel and skin. Inflammatory disease causes swelling.

All types and classifications of Crohn's disease produce similar symptoms and complications including bowel obstruction, pain, and changes in the feces. In severe cases, people may have more than 20 bowel movements in a day. The symptoms will go through periods of flare-ups and remission.

It is possible for Crohn's disease to affect multiple parts of the digestive tract, so multiple types of the condition may be present simultaneously. People with Crohn's disease will cycle through periods of flare-ups and remission, and the severity of your symptoms will, in part, depend on the type that you have.

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