What's the Difference Between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease?

What's the Difference Between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease?

Are you living with frustrating gastrointestinal symptoms, like abdominal pain, weight loss, and diarrhea? You could have ulcerative colitis (UC) or Crohn’s disease. About 70,000 people in the US get diagnosed with one of these conditions each year, which together affect the lives of nearly two million Americans. 

Both conditions are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) most frequently developed in adolescents and young adults, and both can trigger similar symptoms. With these similarities, it’s challenging to know which is causing your symptoms. 

At Digestive Disease Care our team of board-certified gastroenterologists offers patients in Long Island and Queens, New York, expert diagnosis and treatment of different gastrointestinal conditions — including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. 

Keep reading to learn more about UC and Crohn’s disease and the differences between these inflammatory bowel diseases. 

Understanding UC

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes chronic inflammation in your large intestine along with open sores, or ulcers. 

Research is still ongoing as to why some people develop it, but scientists believe it could develop because of an overactive immune response to a viral or bacterial infection. 

While anyone can get UC, some factors increase your risk, including:

Some studies show that frequent or chronic use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also increase your risk of getting UC. There’s no cure for UC, but dietary changes, medications, and surgery can help minimize symptoms and flare ups. 

Understanding Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease also causes chronic inflammation, but it can affect any part of your digestive tract — not just the large intestine. In fact, there are five subtypes of Crohn’s disease based on the area of the digestive tract affected by the disease:

There’s no cure for Crohn’s disease, but different treatments, including dietary changes, medication, and surgery, can help patients manage this autoimmune condition. 

Key differences between UC and Crohn’s

There are many similarities between these two inflammatory bowel diseases. However, three key differences set them apart:

First, UC only affects your large intestine, while Crohn’s disease could trigger inflammation anywhere along your digestive tract (i.e., from your mouth to your anus). Your provider looks at different areas to determine where your inflammation occurs. 

Second, with UC, there are no areas of healthy tissue between inflamed spots in the large intestine. With Crohn’s disease, however, it’s possible to have healthy sections of the intestinal tract between regions with inflammation. 

Finally, since people with Crohn’s disease may have different areas affected by inflammation, the symptoms triggered by the condition can be different from those triggered by UC. 

For example, both UC and Crohn’s disease can cause loss of appetite, weight loss, and inflammation in other parts of the body (e.g., skin, eyes, joints). But depending on where your Crohn’s appears, it can also trigger nausea, vomiting, indigestion, mouth sores, and nutritional deficiencies. 

Help for inflammatory bowel diseases

If you suspect you could have an inflammatory bowel disease, like UC or Crohn’s disease, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a provider at Digestive Disease Care. Only a GI expert can accurately assess your condition and determine which condition is causing your symptoms. 

Learn more about UC and Crohn’s disease by scheduling an appointment online or on the phone at the Digestive Disease Care location in New York most convenient to you. 

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