What’s a progressive disease?

A progressive disease is a condition that can get worse over time like Crohn’s. As it progresses, the chronic inflammation in the intestines may lead to complications such as strictures, fistulas, and abscesses.

On this page, you’ll find info about:

The problem with inflammation

With Crohn’s, inflammation can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Additionally, in many cases Crohn’s can progress over time, causing more inflammation. This active inflammation may lead to more symptoms and more severe disease.

How Crohn’s progression can look

An endoscopy is a test that your doctor will use to check the severity of your disease. This test uses a tiny camera attached to a long, thin, flexible tube that allows your doctor to see inside your intestines. While a doctor is needed to diagnose Crohn’s, you don’t have to be one to see what inflammation can do to damage your intestinal lining. Look for yourself.

UC Inflammation bio images
UC Inflammation bio images
UC Inflammation bio images
UC Inflammation bio images

Understanding the difference in severity

Before a gastroenterologist can determine the severity of Crohn's, there are a few factors taken into consideration. From the symptoms experienced, complications, to how much the disease has impacted your life. To help determine the severity of your disease and make decisions about disease management, your gastroenterologist may use the Crohn’s Disease Activity Index (CDAI) along with other tests.


A CDAI range is divided in four categories which are: remission (<150), mild to moderate (150 to 220), moderate to severe (220 to 450), and severe (>450).

Mild to moderate Crohn’s

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • No signs of: dehydration, high fever, significant weight loss, or obstruction

Moderate to severe Crohn’s

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Intermittent nausea or vomiting
  • Significant weight loss
  • Moderate to severe active intestinal lining disease

Severe Crohn’s

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Abdominal tenderness 
  • Persistent vomiting 
  • Significant weight loss and marked muscle loss 
  • High fever
  • Evidence of intestinal obstruction (blockage) or abscesses (localized infections of collections of pus)
  • Severe intestinal lining disease

If Crohn’s is left untreated, there may be long-term complications.

Crohn’s outside the GI tract

The GI tract isn’t the only home of Crohn’s disease. When the inflammation behind Crohn’s moves beyond the GI tract, it can cause something known as extraintestinal manifestations (EIMs). 

The most common EIMs include:

Skin – tender bumps, painful ulcerations, and other sores/rashes
Muscles and joint system – pain and stiffness
Liver, pancreas, and gallbladder – fatty liver disease, autoimmune liver disease, pancreas disease, gallbladder disease, and liver injury
Eyes – redness, pain, irritation, and itching

Whether it’s mild, moderate, or severe…

A goal in treating Crohn’s, no matter the severity, is managing symptoms by reducing inflammation. A gastroenterologist can help by identifying a treatment plan that could help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms. Long-term treatment goals include improving the intestinal lining and preventing the occurrence of disease complications.

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Is there more to Crohn’s? Find out more in Crohn’s Disease Management


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