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Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects your digestive system, causing chronic inflammation and various abdominal pains and symptoms. But did you know there are 5 types of Crohn’s disease? These 5 different types help distinguish where along your digestive tract the inflammation is occurring. In this article we’ll discuss what the 5 types of Crohn’s disease are and what you can do to successfully manage your Crohn’s disease, regardless of the type you have. (Source, Source)
What Are the 5 Types of Crohn’s Disease?
Because the different types of Crohn’s disease affect different areas of the digestive tract, it’s helpful to know some basic anatomy of the organs that make up the digestive system. The solid organs vital to digestion are the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. For the hollow organs, the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, and rectum are the remaining parts of the digestive system. Together, these hollow organs make up the digestive tract, or the gastrointestinal tract, within the digestive system. (Source)
And to break down the gastrointestinal tract even further, the small and large intestines each contain 3 parts. The small intestine has the duodenum at the beginning, the jejunum at the middle, and the ileum at the end. The large intestine begins with the cecum, then the colon, and ends with the rectum. Knowing about the different parts of the small and large intestines will help you understand where the different types of Crohn’s disease occur along the GI tract. (Source)
Type #1: Ileocolitis
This is the most common type of Crohn’s disease. With ileocolitis, the small intestine, specifically the end of the ileum, and part of the large intestine, the colon, become inflamed. Some symptoms of ileocolitis may include cramping, diarrhea, notable weight loss, and pain in the middle or lower right sections of the abdomen. (Source)
Type #2: Ileitis
With ileitis, only the ileum — the final part of the small intestine — is affected. Your symptoms may be the same as ileocolitis since some of the same organ sections become inflamed. But in extreme cases, complications can include inflammatory abscesses or fistulas in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen. A fistula in this case would be an abnormal channel that develops between different loops of the intestine, formed by infection or inflammation. (Source, Source)
Type #3: Gastroduodenal Crohn’s Disease
Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease affects the stomach and the duodenum — the beginning of the small intestine. Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and diarrhea are all symptoms that may present themselves with this type of Crohn’s. This type is more rare, and can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are vastly different from the more prevalent ileocolitis. The most commonly seen symptom with gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease is postprandial dyspepsia — the medical way of saying indigestion after eating meals. (Source, Source, Source)
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As the name implies, jejunoileitis affects the jejunum, or the middle portion of the small intestine. Symptoms may typically take the form of abdominal pain and cramps after meals, and diarrhea or constipation. Fistulas may appear in more severe cases or after inflammation has occurred for prolonged periods of time. This area of the intestine is difficult to reach by endoscopy, a procedure in which a narrow lighted tube is used to visually examine parts of the digestive system, so inflammation is identified by MRI or other imaging technology. (Source, Source, Source)
Type #5: Crohn’s Colitis
Also called granulomatous colitis, Crohn’s colitis is restricted to the colon. Symptoms may include diarrhea; abscesses, fistulas, and ulcers around the anus; rectal bleeding; and the potential for joint pain and skin lesions. “Granulomatous” refers to a collection of cells in the intestinal lining called granulomas, whose presence shows that the body is attempting to rid itself of foreign material. (Source, Source)
Every layer of the bowel wall is affected by this type of Crohn’s, which is a distinguishing feature of Crohn’s disease compared to ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis (UC) is another inflammatory bowel disease, but it only affects the innermost lining of the colon. A second significant distinction between Crohn’s disease and UC is that healthy portions of intestines are mixed amongst inflamed areas in Crohn’s, whereas UC produces continuous inflammation of the entire colon. (Source)
How to Care for Your Crohn’s
There are many ways to effectively care for Crohn’s disease, and an important step in your journey with Crohn’s is working with your care team to receive the correct diagnosis. Once you know the type of Crohn’s disease that your body is dealing with, you and your care team can develop a unique plan to reclaim your well-being and heal your digestive system. Here are some additional steps that may play an important role in caring for your Crohn’s:
Pharmacological therapy in the form of short-term or long-term medications prescribed by your provider can help reduce inflammation in the GI tract. (Source)
Monitor your symptoms and track any changes. Use a system that works for you to record how you feel between medical appointments so that you’re prepared for your next health care visit. Or utilize Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Symptom Tracker, a ready-made template to ensure you’re advocating for yourself and the most effective treatment plan for you. (Source)
Consider making healthy lifestyle changes to support your overall health. Exercising regularly, eating nutrient-dense foods, taking vitamins and mineral supplements if you need extra nutritional support, quitting smoking, and reducing your stress can have a tremendous impact on your holistic well-being. Be sure to discuss any changes you’re considering with your care team as well. (Source)
Make the most of supportive relationships. Knowing who you can rely on in times of flares and remissions can make your IBD journey smoother and more manageable when you feel supported on an emotional level. And if you’re seeking a more personalized, collaborative support structure, WellTheory has your back. See how we’re different and how much healing is possible when you have a Care Team committed to the full picture of your health.
If you’re looking to get even more in-depth on Crohn’s, check out our ultimate guide that looks at risk factors, getting diagnosed, treatment options, and additional resources on the disease.
The Bottom Line on the 5 Types of Crohn’s Disease
The 5 types of Crohn’s disease are ileocolitis, ileitis, gastroduodenal Crohn’s, jejunoileitis, and Crohn’s colitis. Each type affects a different part of your digestive tract and symptoms will be unique to you. There are many steps you can take to boost your well-being while living with Crohn’s, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, tracking symptoms, and nurturing your emotional well-being. Your IBD journey can be one of healing, supported by an understanding community as you reach your optimal levels of wellness, no matter your diagnosis.