Crohn’s disease finds its home in the digestive tract and can present a variety of symptoms besides diarrhea and abdominal pain based on its location. Understanding the location and severity of the symptoms can help those living with Crohn’s disease have a clearer picture of their discomfort.
Crohn’s disease is characterized by an inflammation of tissue in the gastrointestinal tract and can appear anywhere from the mouth to the anus. Most commonly, it occurs at the end of the small intestine. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, approximately 700,000 people in the United States are affected by Crohn’s disease. It most commonly begins between ages 15 to 35.
Five types of Crohn’s disease based on location
The location of the disease determines what kind of symptoms individuals with Crohn’s disease may experience.
- Ileocolitis: Affects the ileum (end of the small intestine) and the colon (the large intestine) Symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, and cramping in the middle or right lower abdomen.
- Ileitis: Affects the ileum. Symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, and cramping in the middle or lower right abdomen.
- Jejunoileitis: Characterized by patchy areas of inflammation in the jejunum (upper half of the small intestine). Symptoms include mild to strong abdominal pain and cramps following meals, as well as diarrhea.
- Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease: Affects the stomach and beginning of the duodenum (small intestine). Symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting.
- Crohn’s colitis: Affects the colon. Symptoms include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and disease around the anus.
Crohn’s disease can also cause inflammation outside of the gastrointestinal tract in areas such as eyes, skin, and joints.
From mild to severe: Symptoms of the disease
Symptoms range in severity. Milder symptoms can be managed at home. These symptoms include frequent diarrhea and abdominal pain that does not inhibit one to eat or walk. Moderate to severe symptoms will require help from a doctor. Symptoms range from frequent diarrhea, abdominal pain or tenderness to fever significant weight loss and anemia.
Very severe symptoms will be persistent. These include high fever, vomiting, evidence of intestinal obstruction or abscess. Any abdominal pain will not lessen with time and areas will swell. More severe weight loss occurs.
Living with Crohn’s is considered especially difficult when the symptoms come in unexpected waves. Individuals may want to record how long some of the symptoms persist and use a severity rating to determine if the symptoms are worsening. Knowing the location and type of discomfort or pain will help doctors determine the best medication and treatment plan.
Claire is a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in Rehabilitation and Disability Studies. Her health interests include communication disorders, illness prevention, and disability advocacy. She has worked in a variety of clinics as a behavior therapist and is currently completing coursework towards fulfilling her goal to become a Speech-Language Pathologist.