Under the IBD Umbrella: How Different are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?

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Most people do not know the differences between inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), ulcerative colitis (UC), and Crohn’s disease. The simple explanation is that IBD serves as an umbrella term for the condition under which both UC and Crohn’s disease fall. Both of these diseases are marked by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. They may also share some symptoms.

There are, however, significant differences to note. Knowing these distinctions can keep you from seeking ulcerative colitis treatment from your Salt Lake City physician for a potential case of Crohn’s disease or vice versa.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease affects any part of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract from the mouth to the anus. In most cases, the disease affects the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon. Symptoms of this disease can include the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Occasional constipation

Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s isn’t limited to your GI tract. It can also affect your skin, eyes, liver, and joints. Since people experience symptoms after a meal, this situation can cause them to lose their appetite. In turn, they will experience weight loss due to their lack of appetite.

Crohn’s disease can cause blockages of the intestine due to swelling and scarring. It can also cause ulcers (sores) to develop in the tracts of their own (fistulas), as well as increase the risk of colon cancer.

Medication is the go-to solution for Crohn’s disease. Most physicians often recommend the following to people with Crohn’s:

  • Antibiotics (for infections and ulcers)
  • Steroids
  • 5-ASA drugs
  • Immune modifiers
  • Biologic therapy

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis

Unlike Crohn’s disease, UC is confined to the colon and only affects the top layers of your bowels. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis often include:

  • Loose stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Urgency of bowel movement
  • Loss of appetite

UC’s symptoms also vary by type. There are five types of ulcerative colitis based on location:

  • Left-sided colitis – It affects the rectum and descending colon.
  • Acute severe UC –  It is a rare form of UC that affects the entire colon, causing eating difficulties.
  • Proctosigmoiditis – It Affects the lower colon and rectum.
  • Pancolitis – It affects the entire colon and causes persistent bloody diarrhea.
  • Ulcerative proctitis – It is the mildest form of UC and affects the rectum only.

When left untreated, ulcerative colitis can lead to colon cancer, perforation (holes in the colon), osteoporosis, liver disease, and anemia.

In terms of treatment, all the medications used for Crohn’s disease can also help patients with UC. Surgery, however, is the standard recommendation from doctors and can cure the condition. That is because ulcerative colitis is only limited to the colon. The removal of the colon means the removal of the disease.

Your colon is vital, though. Surgery should be the last resort. Most physicians will only recommend surgery if remission is difficult to achieve and other medications have been unsuccessful.

Commitment to lifestyle changes and daily treatment can help minimize symptoms, avoid complications, and achieve remission for both UC and Crohn’s disease. For more information, always consult with your doctor first.

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