Definition of Cryptitis

Cryptitis: A term that is used to describe one of the abnormalities that is seen under the microscope when small intestinal or colonic tissue is examined. The intestinal crypts are tubular structures composed of cells that protrude from the inner lining of the intestines and into the walls of the intestines. These crypts contain the cells that give rise to all the other cells that move out of the crypts and eventually line the inner lining 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 histologic 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 anal canal. 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.

Author:Jay W. Marks, M.D.


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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