The inflammatory bowel disease is a grouping of chronic gastrointestinal disorders that cause inflammation and ulceration on the digestive tract or bowels and can lead to many medical symptoms and signs, including abdominal pain, tiredness, fever, watery stools, blood in the stool, loss of appetite, and weight loss. The ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the two most commonly occurring inflammatory bowel diseases. Although most of the symptoms of both these abdominal diseases are more or less same, these two diseases are two different medical conditions and require different treatment modalities. A brief explanation of the symptoms and other characteristics can be greatly helpful to understand the differences between these two inflammatory bowel diseases.
The Crohn's disease is a persistent inflammatory condition of the digestive tract and can affect anyplace from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, mostly causes inflammation in the innermost lining of the colon and the rectum. In some individuals it affects the ileum, the last part of the intestine.
Ulcerative colitis normally causes pain in the left lower quadrant of the abdomen. Patients with Crohn's disease usually feel pain in their right lower abdominal quadrant. It typically creates patches of inflammation in an intermittent pattern in one or more organs of the alimentary canal, while colitis produces continuous inflammation in the colon and rectum.
A gastroenterologist performs a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to identify whether the patient suffers from these bowel diseases. If the colon shows a thickened, cobblestone appearance, it can be concluded that the patient is having Crohn's disease. Likewise, granulomas or lesions of inflamed cells are commonly found in Crohn's while they are absent in ulcerative colitis.
In the patients with ulcerative colitis, ulcers occur only on the inner lining of the large intestine. The Crohn's disease ulcerations are deep and can penetrate into all layers of intestinal walls. Similarly, this disease can sometimes lead to many other complications, such as fissures, traumas, and fistulas.
Another interesting difference between these two diseases is that when smoking is a risk factor for the Crohn's disease and can lead to relapse of this disease, ulcerative colitis is regarded as no-smoker's disease as in some people smoking can be protective against it.
Sometimes, the inflammatory bowel disease is confused with another common gastrointestinal disorder, irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. The irritable bowel syndrome also has symptoms like abdominal bloating, pain, intestinal discomfort, diarrhea, and weight loss. However, this medical condition is not as serious as inflammatory bowel disease, but it can affect the quality of life of a patient.