Crohn’s Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis: What's the Difference?

Reviewed on 6/21/2021

Both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that cause similar symptoms. Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, while ulcerative colitis affects only the colon. In Crohn's disease, pain is felt throughout the entire abdomen while in ulcerative colitis, the pain is usually localized to the left side of the abdomen.
Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that cause similar symptoms. Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, while ulcerative colitis affects only the colon. In Crohn's disease, pain is felt throughout the entire abdomen while in ulcerative colitis, the pain is usually localized to the left side of the abdomen.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. 

While symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are similar, there are some differences between the two conditions: 

  • Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, while ulcerative colitis affects only the colon (large intestine)
  • People who have Crohn's disease can have healthy parts of the intestine interspersed with the inflamed areas while ulcerative colitis is characterized by continuous inflammation of the colon
  • Crohn's disease can affect all layers of the bowel walls while ulcerative colitis only affects the innermost lining of the colon
  • In Crohn's disease, pain is felt throughout the entire abdomen while in ulcerative colitis, the pain is usually localized to the left side of the abdomen

What Are Symptoms of Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?

Symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis that are similar include: 

Crohn’s disease can also cause symptoms in the body outside the GI tract, including: 

Additional symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include:

For both conditions, relapses, when inflammation and symptoms worsen (flares) can occur, followed by periods of remission that can last months to years when symptoms subside.

QUESTION

Ulcerative colitis affects the colon. The colon is also referred to as the... See Answer

How Are Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosed?

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination, along with tests that may include: 

What Is the Treatment for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?

Treatment for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the condition and how often a patient’s symptoms flare-up (worsen). Treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms, inducing remission (which is a period without symptoms), and maintaining remission.

Medications used to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis include:

Diet changes used to manage Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis include:

  • Maintain good nutrition 
  • Consume soft, bland foods during flares
  • Avoid spicy or high-fiber foods during flares
  • Restricting dairy intake if you are lactose-intolerant

Surgery used to treat Crohn’s disease includes:

  • Strictureplasty: repairs a narrowing (stricture) by widening the narrowed area without removing any portion of the intestine
  • Proctocolectomy: removal of the colon and rectum
  • Colectomy: removal of the colon
  • Fistula removal
  • Bowel resection: removes a portion of the small or large intestine damaged by Crohn’s disease
  • Abscess drainage

Surgery for ulcerative colitis is a last-resort used for severe cases. Surgery usually involves removing the entire colon and the rectum, which is the only permanent cure for ulcerative colitis. 

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Reviewed on 6/21/2021
References
https://www.uclahealth.org/gastro/ibd/ulcerative-colitis-vs-crohns-disease

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/ulcerative-colitis-beyond-the-basics?topicRef=15613&source=see_link

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8613037/

https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ulcerative-colitis/treatment/