Diverticulitis and Crohn's disease are both inflammatory disease of the colon. Both disease can affect the entire digestive tract, from the esophagus to the rectum. While many of the symptoms are similar, these are two completely different disease processes.
Defining Diverticulitis and Crohn's Disease
Diverticulitis is a condition where weak areas of the colon develop pouches that can become infected or inflammed. Crohn's Disease is a chronic condition that affects entire portions of the intestine instead of pouches.
Diverticulitis is a nonhereditary condition most often associated with people over the age of 40 who have a low fiber diet, are obese, or are sedentary (or a combination of these). Crohn's Disease is often hereditary, may be due to an immune disorder, usually occurs in persons ages 20-30, and is not caused by dietary habits.
Symptoms of diverticulitis and Crohn's disease can be very similar, including fever, abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, diarrhea and rectal bleeding. Additionally with Crohn's disease, the person has more unpredictable bowel habits (alternating between diarrhea and constipation), and can develop skin problems and arthritis.
Complications of both diseases may include peritonitis, anemia from bleeding, intestinal blockages and scarring, abscesses, and fistulas between the colon and bladder. Crohn's disease may also cause malnutrition, weight loss, osteoporosis and other systemic inflammatory responses.
Mild cases of diverticulitis can often be relieved with rest, dietary adjustments, antibiotics and, in more severe cases, surgery. While there is no cure for Crohn's disease, anti-inflammatory agents, steroids, antidiarrheal agents and surgery help to relieve symptoms from flare-ups.