Crohn's Disease Can Affect These Parts Of The Digestive Tract

The Mouth, Esophagus, Stomach, and Perianal Area Can Also Be Affected

Many people have heard of Crohn's disease, but they may not be familiar with that it means to a patient who has the disease. While Crohn's disease may have some name recognition, it might still not be known that it is just one type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and that ulcerative colitis is also a form of IBD.  Crohn's disease affects the digestion, and while for most people that means the intestines, Crohn's disease can affect other parts of the body as well. Here are some of the body parts that Crohn's disease can affect.

Small and Large Intestine

Large And Small Intestine
Crohn's disease mostly commonly affects the small and large intestines.. Image © GYRO PHOTOGRAPHY / amanaimagesRF / Getty Images

The small and large intestines are the most common places for Crohn's disease to cause inflammation. Many people may mistakenly believe that it is only the small intestine that is affected. But the large intestine is also commonly affected in Crohn's disease, and about 20% of people have disease only in the large intestine (which is called Crohn's colitis). The most common form of Crohn's, which affects about 45% of patients, is called ileocolitis and does affect the last section of the small intestine (the ileum) and the large intestine. The second most common form, ileitis, affects about 35% of patients and affects the ileum. The classifications are mostly for the benefit of a treatment plan, and the type of Crohn's disease a patient has can change if other parts of the intestine become affected. 

The Mouth

Mouth Exam
The mouth is a frequent site for one of the annoyances of Crohn's disease, aphthous ulcers.. Image © BSIP / UIG / Getty Images

One problem that many with IBD experience is aphthous stomatitis, which are ulcers in the mouth. It's estimated that 20 to 30% of people with Crohn's disease have this problem. The ulcers tend to occur when the Crohn's disease is active, but they can also occur during times of remission as well. People with Crohn's disease may also experience other various problems in the mouth, such as inflammation of the lips or tongue. These are sometimes due to vitamin deficiencies. If there is a lot of vomiting, the enamel of the teeth could wear down, causing dental problems.

The Esophagus

The esophagus connects the mouth with the stomach. Most of the time we are not aware of our esophagus, unless we are experiencing symptoms of heartburn or reflux.. Image © A.D.A.M.

Crohn's disease in the esophagus is rare and is only estimated to affect about 1% of patients. When the esophagus does become affected by Crohn's disease, it can lead to problems with swallowing and heartburn. If this type of Crohn's disease is suspected, tests such as an upper endoscopy might be done to look for inflammation or other complications such as strictures or fistulas.

The Stomach

Certain medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can have a significant effect on the stomach.. Image © MediaForMedical / UIG / Getty Images

In about 5% of patients with Crohn's disease, the stomach may be affected. The two types that affect the stomach are called jejunoileitis and gastroduodenal Crohn's Disease. In jejunoileitis, the middle part of the small intestine, which is called the jejunum. is also affected. In gastroduodenal Crohn's disease, the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum, is also inflamed. In some cases, these forms of Crohn's disease may initially be thought to be a stomach ulcer, only to later determine that it is actually Crohn's disease. 

Perianal Area

Anorectal Fistula
In Crohn's disease, the lining of the intestine may ulcerate and form channels of infection -- fistulas. Fistulas tunnel from the area of ulceration, creating a hole which may continue until it reaches the surface of the organ, or that of nearby skin.. Photo © A.D.A.M.

The perianal area is the skin and the area around the anus. Crohn's disease affecting the perianal area is quite common. Some of the problems that can occur include perianal abscesses, fistulas, anal fissures, and hemorrhoids. An abscess is a collection of blood and pus, and as many as 85% of people with Crohn's disease may develop one during the course of their disease. Abscesses may lead to the development of a fistula, which is an abnormal connection between two organs or between the interior of the body and the skin. Two studies estimate that an anal fissure, which is a small tear in the anal canal, could affect anywhere between 44% and 85% of people with Crohn's disease. Hemorrhoids, while common in the general population, are not as prevalent in Crohn's disease. 


Safar B, Sands D. "Perianal Crohn's Disease." Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2007 Nov; 20(4): 282–293. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-991027 8 Oct 2015.

The Importance Of Managing Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive system, but the large and small intestine are the most common locations. However, some of the complications are fairly common, and people with Crohn's disease should keep in close contact with their gastroenterologist to manage their disease.

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