Crohn’s Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis
Chances are that if you have Crohn’s disease, you have heard of ulcerative colitis, and may have been misdiagnosed with one first or diagnosed with both at the same time. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are so closely related that together they are known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The two diseases are very closely related and an estimated 10% of all Crohn’s disease patients also have ulcerative colitis.
What is Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is an infection and inflammation of the colon which causes sores and pain in the lower part of the colon (large intestine) and the rectum. The disease does not spread beyond the colon, but may spread to affect the entire large intestine, causing worsening symptoms.
What is Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is an infection and inflammation of the digestive tract, which includes the colon, small intestine, and can spread to the stomach and even the esophagus. Like ulcerative colitis, it can cause sores, as well as fistulas, blockage, scarring and abscesses.
How are Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease Similar?
On the surface, both Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease have nearly identical symptoms.
- Both diseases are typically diagnosed before the age of 30 but can occur at any age
- Symptoms are very similar
- Both have similar contributing factors including genetics, diet, inappropriate immune system response, and environment.
- Both cause similar symptoms, relating to inflammation of the intestinal wall
How are Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease Different?
The primary differences between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the infected location and how the infection spreads. Other than that, the two have nearly identical symptoms and no other real differentiating factors.
- Ulcerative colitis affects the colon (large intestine only. Crohn’s disease can affect anywhere between the mouth and anus.
- Ulcerative colitis is a continuous infection. Any part between infected areas is completely infected. Crohn’s disease is characterized by large portions of healthy intestine between inflamed areas.
- Ulcerative colitis affects the inner lining of the colon only. Crohn’s disease affects every layer of the intestinal walls.
In short, Crohn’s disease spreads more easily to new areas but does not necessarily infect everything, infects different parts of the body, and can spread to more areas of the body.
In most cases, people who have both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are diagnosed with indeterminate colitis, typically because it’s difficult to tell if an infection in the lower bowels is ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, unless more layers of the intestinal wall are infected.
If you’ve been diagnosed with both, don’t worry. Managing ulcerative colitis requires the same steps and health routines as managing Crohn’s disease.
If you have any form of IBD, your doctor can work with you to prescribe medication, create a treatment schedule, and likely recommend a dietician to help you manage your diet. You should also start keeping a food journal to determine which foods cause flare ups, get regular exercise to boost your immune system, and take a blood test to ensure that you’re not suffering from anemia or a nutrient deficiency.
Click through to page 7 to learn more about Crohn’s medication.