November 28, 2023


Cryptitis is a word pathologists use to describe inflammation involving the tissue inside the colon. The inflammation is caused by specialized immune cells called neutrophils. It is an example of acute inflammation and is often seen in a condition called active colitis.

What does cryptitis look like under the microscope?

The tissue on the inside of the colon is lined by specialized epithelial cells that connect together to form structures called glands. When examined under the microscope, the normal, healthy glands look like long, straight test tubes. The area at the very bottom of the gland is called the crypt. In cryptitis, neutrophils attack and damage the epithelial cells in the crypt. This prevents the gland from working normally. A crypt abscess is a related change that means the neutrophils have filled the open space normally found in the center of the crypt.

What causes cryptitis?

Several different conditions can cause cryptitis. For that reason, it is a descriptive term and not a diagnosis. Conditions that can cause cryptitis include infection, medications, radiation to the colon, or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis). Your doctor will use the information in your pathology report along with other information about you and your medical history to determine the cause.

About this article

This article was written by doctors to help you read and understand your pathology report. Contact us if you have questions about this article or your pathology report. For a complete introduction to your pathology report, read this article.

Other helpful resources

Atlas of pathology
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