What Is Cryptitis?

Last Editorial Review: 6/23/2017

Ask the experts

Can you please tell me if you have heard of the condition cryptitis? Is this associated with colitis?

Doctor's response

Cryptitis is a term that is used to describe one of the abnormalities that is seen under the microscope when tissue from the small intestinal or colon is examined. The crypts are normal tubular structures composed of cells that extend into the walls of the intestines. These crypts contain the cells that give rise to all of the other cells that migrate out of the crypts and then line the inner surface of the intestines. Inflammation of the crypts is known as cryptitis. Cryptitis is seen in inflammatory bowel disease, both Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis, but it also can be seen in other inflammatory conditions of the intestines. It is not a disease itself but a microscopical manifestation of several different diseases.

Cryptitis also may refer to inflammation in the anus. Two centimeters from the anal orifice (anus) the lining tissue of the anus begins to change into the specialized lining of the colon. This junction is called the pectinate line. At the pectinate line are small mounds of tissue that protrude into the anus. Between these protrusions into the anus are small out-pouchings from the anus and into the surrounding tissues. These out-pouchings are the anal crypts. Although they are covered with flaps of anal lining tissue, the anal crypts communicate with the anus and colon above. Inflammation of the crypts, probably caused by the trauma of passing stool and/or infection, is referred to as cryptitis. If infection progresses, it can extend further into the surrounding tissues and lead to the formation of an abscess or fistula.

Medically reviewed by Venkatachala Mohan, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Gastroenterology


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