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What Is the Difference Between Crohn’s and Colitis?

Written by Courteney

Posted on September 26, 2016 at 2:44 am


Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s are both serious inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD – not to be confused with IBS, which is irritable bowel syndrome). Both diseases result from the immune system mistakenly identifying any food or bacteria in the digestive tract as a foreign allergen and attacking itself, causing inflammation. Although they are similar but separate conditions, they are often mistakenly interchanged or thought of as one and the same. So what are the similarities and differences between Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (UC)?

Similarities Between The Two Diseases

Because they are both inflammatory bowel diseases, both conditions share many similarities. Some of which include:

  • Inflammation of the digestive tract
  • Genetics and environmental factors appear to contribute to both
  • Immune system dysfunction causes both conditions
  • Many of the symptoms overlap
  • Mild to severe flare-ups are followed by asymptomatic periods
  • Can be exacerbated or caused by certain medications such as NSAIDs or certain acne treatments
  • Both conditions are often treated with similar medications, such as anti-inflammatory medications or steroids


Key Differentiating Features

While colitis causes uniform inflammation and affects the large intestine only, Crohn’s disease causes intermittent and random patches of inflammation and can strike anywhere in the digestive tract between the mouth and anus. UC appears to be slightly more prevalent among men while Crohn’s seems to affect more woman than men. Crohn’s is also less affected by diet than UC is.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symptoms

Crohn’s disease:

  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Night sweats
  • Potential loss of period (amenorrhea)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth sores
  • fissures
  • Bloody stool
  • Perianal symptoms

Ulcerative Colitis:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Fever and night sweats lasting days
  • Amenorrhea
  • Blood or pus present in stool
  • Weight loss
  • Rectal pain
  • Joint pain and inflammation
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Failure to grow (children)
  • Incontinence
  • Urgency accompanied by inability to defecate

Potential Complications of Crohn’s and Colitis

Some of the potential complications of Crohn’s include: obstructions or narrowing of the bowel, fistulas, colorectal cancer, increased risk of osteoporosis, gallbladder or liver disease or anemia. Potential complications of ulcerative colitis include: dehydration from chronic diarrhea, liver disease, internal bleeding, kidney complications, gastrointestinal infections, inflammation of the spine, skin, or eyes. Severe cases of colitis can even lead a serious operation called an proctocolectomy, the surgical removal of part of the bowel, rectum and anus, where the bowel is redirected to a hole the surgeon makes in the stomach for waste to be excreted.

When to Seek Treatment

If you struggle with many of the above listed symptoms, it is important to visit your doctor (or talk to one of ours!) as soon as possible to start the testing process to see if you are suffering from an inflammatory bowel disease like the Crohn’s or Colitis, or if your symptoms are due to another intestinal condition such as diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome. Thanks for visiting DocChat! We hope you’ll return again soon.

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