Diverticulitis and Crohn’s disease are inflammatory conditions of the intestine; however, diverticulitis is inflammation of pouches that have formed in the large intestine and Crohn’s disease is inflammation of the intestinal lining anywhere along the small or large intestine.
The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) says that increased abdominal pressure, within the large intestine, can form sacs or pouches that protrude away from the intestinal cavity. The pouches, known as diverticula, trap food particles and can become inflamed, causing diverticulitis. In severe cases the pouches can rupture, allowing the fecal matter in the intestine to leak out into the abdominal cavity. Nearly half of people over the age of 60 have diverticula, but only a small percentage will develop diverticulitis.
The cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown; however, some researchers suspect that the body’s immune system may react adversely to a virus or bacteria and cause inflammation of the intestinal lining. The disorder is not caused by emotional stress; however, there is a genetic component; 20 percent of sufferers have a relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease, according to Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of diverticulitis and Crohn’s disease are similar and include abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, weight loss, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease also include diarrhea and rectal bleeding, according to Cedars Sinai and UMMC.
Diverticulitis is diagnosed by abdominal palpation, or touching the abdomen; CT scan to visualize the intestine and white blood cell count. If the white blood cell count is elevated, that means an infection is active within the body. Crohn's disease is diagnosed by assessing the blood for elevated white blood cell count, analyzing the stool for blood, an X-ray with barium swallow to assess the intestine for inflammation and a colonoscopy to assess the large intestine for inflammation and perforations, according to UMMC and Cedars Sinai.
Diverticulitis is treated with antibiotics. Severe cases that cause a tear in the intestinal wall or produce a fistula are treated with surgery to remove the section of large intestine. To reduce the incidence of diverticulitis, physicians recommend the ingestion of fiber, such as psyllium, to increase fecal bulk and elimination, Cedars Sinai reports.
Treatment of Crohn’s disease depends on the severity of the condition. It is important to maintain bouts of remission for as long as possible; therefore, mild cases are treated with medications that decrease inflammation and suppress the immune system. Severe cases may require surgery to remove sections of the small and large intestine that are permanently damaged, according to UMMC.
The University of Maryland Medical Center says that diverticulitis is typically a mild condition that responds well to treatment. Crohn’s disease can develop into a serious condition that can cause intestinal blockage, tears and malnutrition. Lifestyle considerations are recommended that include daily exercise, diet changes incorporating more fruits and vegetables and eliminating saturated fat, sugar and smoking.