Crohn's Disease vs Ulcerative Colitis: What are the Differences?

Health Education
4 mins
Crohn's Disease vs Ulcerative Colitis: What are the Differences?

Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis are two very similar conditions. They have so much in common that some people may believe they are the same disease. But this is not the case, as there are a few key differences between the two. This guide will highlight the differences between Crohn’s Disease vs. ulcerative colitis, looking at symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

What is Ulcerative Colitis? What is Crohn’s Disease?

Ulcerative Colitis

So, what is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that specifically affects the colon and rectum. Patients with ulcerative colitis will experience inflammation in the colon's inner lining and may also develop ulcers.

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is not known. Poor nutrition and stress can make ulcerative colitis symptoms worse, but are not believed to be the root cause. Other risk factors of ulcerative colitis include age and genetics.

Crohn’s Disease

Like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease. Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract. Whereas ulcerative colitis is limited to the inner lining of the large intestine, Crohn’s disease can affect a wider potential area. With that said, Crohn’s disease does not usually affect an entire continuous area of the digestive tract. In most cases, there are healthy areas along the digestive tract in combination with inflamed regions.

Also similar to ulcerative colitis, the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is not fully understood. It is believed that a virus or bacterium triggers Crohn’s disease. However, doctors have not been able to identify a specific viral or bacterial trigger for Crohn’s disease.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, Complications, and Treatment

Patients with Crohn’s disease will often experience abdominal pain in the affected areas. The symptoms of Crohn’s disease may also rise and fall, sometimes going away completely. However, when triggered, symptoms often build up gradually before becoming moderate or severe. In addition to abdominal pain, common Crohn's disease symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Blood in stool
  • Mouth sores

Crohn’s disease may lead to or increase the risk of several other health complications. Some of these include:

  • Anemia
  • Kidney stones
  • Skin or joint inflammation
  • Chronic malnutrition
  • Bowel blockages
  • Blood clots
  • Colon cancer

Crohn’s Disease Treatment

The most important thing to do if you have Crohn’s disease is to get it diagnosed. While there is no known cure yet, receiving treatment for Crohn’s disease can reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms.

In Crohn’s disease treatment plans, doctors use a range of medications, from corticosteroids to immune system suppressors to antibiotics. If medication and dietary changes do not work, surgery can be used to reduce symptoms. However, surgery does not cure Crohn's disease. It is simply used to remove damaged tissue in the digestive tract.

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms, Complications, and Treatment

Ulcerative colitis shares many common symptoms with Crohn’s disease. Its most identifiable symptom is also abdominal pain and cramping. Like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis symptoms may sometimes appear to go into remission. Other common ulcerative colitis symptoms include:

  • Rectal pain and bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Dehydration
  • Fever

Complications associated with ulcerative colitis include:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Increased risk of colon cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Swollen or damaged colon

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment

Ulcerative colitis often follows many of the same procedures as Crohn’s disease treatment. The same combination of medications may be used, though their effectiveness may differ slightly in Crohn’s disease vs. ulcerative colitis.

However, there are surgical options to eliminate colitis. This is one key difference between Crohn’s and Colitis treatment options. However, rather than “curing” colitis, surgical procedures instead remove it by removing the colon entirely.

If you have questions or concerns about treatment for either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, contact BASS Medical Group to learn more.