Crohn’s Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis: Understanding the Differences From a Plano GI Doctor
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). While they share some similar symptoms, there are key differences between these digestive conditions. Understanding how Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are unique can help you better manage your diagnosis.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation and irritation in any part of the digestive tract. Most often, Crohn’s disease affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon. However, it can impact any area from the mouth to the anus.
With Crohn’s disease, inflammation goes through all the layers of the bowel wall. This can cause deep sores, or ulcers, that tunnel into the tissues. Crohn’s disease inflammation is patchy, meaning there are healthy areas mixed in between inflamed areas.
Common Crohn’s disease symptoms include:
Abdominal pain and cramping
Reduced appetite and weight loss
Blood in stool
Crohn’s disease has no known cure. Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and managing symptoms. Medications, diet changes, and sometimes surgery can help control Crohn’s disease.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis causes swelling and sores, called ulcers, along the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum. In ulcerative colitis, only the innermost layer of the intestinal wall is affected.
The inflammation happens in a steady pattern, always starting from the rectum and moving up continuously to the rest of the large bowel over time. Unlike Crohn’s disease, the rest of the digestive tract is not affected.
Common ulcerative colitis symptoms are:
Abdominal pain and cramping
Urgency to defecate
Inability to defecate despite urgency
There is no known cure for ulcerative colitis either. Treatment focuses on controlling inflammation and managing symptoms with medication, diet changes, or surgery.
Key Differences Between the Diseases as Described by a GI Plano Doctor
While Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis share some characteristics, there are key differences:
Location of inflammation:
Crohn’s can impact any part of the digestive tract from mouth to anus; ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine and rectum
Depth of inflammation:
Crohn's causes deep inflammation into the bowel wall layers; ulcerative colitis only impacts the innermost colon lining
Crohn’s has patchy, scattered inflammation; ulcerative colitis starts at the rectum and moves up contiguously
Presence of ulcers:
Deep ulcers and fissures are common in Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis features only surface-level inflammatory ulcers
Crohn’s disease can lead to strictures, fistulas, small bowel obstructions; ulcerative colitis may increase colon cancer risk
Identifying Which Disease You Have
Since Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis share so many general symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and fatigue, it can be hard to know which specific condition you have without testing.
If you are experiencing chronic digestive symptoms in the Plano or Frisco area, see a local Plano GI doctor for an accurate diagnosis. They will consider your full medical history, perform a physical exam, and order diagnostic tests like:
Blood tests to look for markers of inflammation
Stool sample testing for blood, infection, or other indicators
CT scan or MRI to view the digestive tract
Colonoscopy and endoscopy to examine the intestines and obtain tissue samples
Capsule endoscopy to see hard-to-reach areas of the small intestine
Understanding whether you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis will help guide your treatment plan. Your Frisco GI doctor can recommend the most effective medication, diet, and management approaches based on your specific IBD diagnosis.
Living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis
Having inflammatory bowel disease presents daily challenges. Identifying your specific condition allows you to learn as much as possible and equip yourself with the right management tools. Joining local and online support groups can also help you connect with others facing the same IBD.
If you are experiencing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease like persistent diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fatigue, please call my Plano GI office to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this blog is intended for Informational Use only and is not intended to replace personal evaluation and treatment by a medical provider. The information provided on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please consult your doctor for any information related to your personal care.