Crohn’s Disease and Colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two unique conditions that fall under the umbrella category of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The two conditions share some similarities, most notably symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, etc. The risk factors of the two conditions are also similar, in particular a family history of IBD.

Here are some important things to know about Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis:

  • The exact causes of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are uncertain, but individuals with these conditions may have underlying immune system dysfunction.
  • Those with a family history of these conditions or of Jewish heritage are at a higher risk.
  • Stress and certain foods may trigger symptoms but do not cause Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Both conditions can cause severe pain and potentially life-threatening complications.

Major Differences Between Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

The primary difference between the two conditions is that Crohn’s disease can develop anywhere in the intestines while ulcerative colitis occurs only within the colon. Additional differences between the two conditions include:

  • Inflammation: The rectum is always inflamed in ulcerative colitis whereas Crohn’s disease may spare the rectum or even the entire colon (large intestine).
  • Symptoms: The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include the urge to use the bathroom, blood in stool with mucus, and often frequent diarrhea. Crohn’s disease may also cause intestinal obstruction, perianal fistula and intra-abdominal abscess.
  • Diagnosis: While the two diseases may occur in different areas of the body, a colonoscopy is typically performed to diagnose and differentiate between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be performed to determine the location(s) of intestinal inflammation and differentiate Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Treated the Same Way?

While there is currently no known cure for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, safe and effective treatment approaches are available to control inflammation and manage symptoms, with a goal toward remission.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are often treated with similar medications, with a few medications only approved for one condition. After a comprehensive workup, your doctor will develop a personalized treatment plan for you. The treatment options for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may include:

  • Dietary and nutritional changes
  • Medications to reduce inflammation in the small intestines or colon and alleviate symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal discomfort
  • Combination therapy using multiple  medications to suppress the immune system
  • Surgery to treat fistulas (an abnormal connection between two parts of the body) , intestinal blockages, or other complications, including cancer

Why Choose Cooper

Whether you have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis or suspect that you may have one of the conditions, our experienced and compassionate doctors at Cooper University Health Care are dedicated to providing you with the most advanced diagnostic and treatment available.

Our specialists understand the profound impact that Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis can have on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. By choosing Cooper, you can be assured that you will have access to state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and the latest treatment options, including clinical trials of innovative therapies.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a gastroenterologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating Crohn’s disease and colitis, 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737) or use our online appointment form.