Differentiating Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis

Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  Crohn’s Disease And Ulcerative Colitis.  Any Difference?

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Any DifferenceInflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not uncommon.  It seems to be seen often in large cities such as Los Angeles, New York and other metropolitan areas.  Smaller cities such as Culver City and Beverly Hills also see their share of these illnesses.  IBD as a major cause of illness, with patients exhibiting a variety of symptoms ranging from minor to severe and life threatening.  IBD is also a source of confusion and consternation for both physicians and patients.  Facts are plentiful but certainty is rare.  Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the best known members of this family of diseases.  These are two of the most common diseases seen by the proctologist, also known as a colon and rectal surgeon.

The Facts:

  • IBD is an autoimmune disease whereby our immune system turns against our own body parts; in this case, our intestinal tract.
  • Theories of causation include genetics, toxins in food, infectious agents and possibly antibiotic use.
  • There are other forms of IBD, but they are rare and even less well understood.
  • While symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are similar, the differences are in where the two diseases affect the body and what the diseases look like under the microscope.
  • Sometimes an exact classification cannot be made and the disease is called “indeterminate”.

Both forms of IBD present with a variety of symptoms, some in the intestine and some outside of the intestine.  The symptoms that present outside of the intestine are known as extra-intestinal manifestations.

IBD Symptoms.

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include weight loss (or failure to gain age appropriate weight in children), nausea, vomiting, blood in the bowel movements, abnormal bowel movements, diarrhea and malaise, which is a general feeling of fatigue and weakness, and cramping in the pelvic region.

Extra-intestinal manifestations of IBD include anemia (low red blood cell levels), arthritis, sclerosing cholangitis (inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts), pyoderma gangrenosum (an inflammatory skin disorder) and ocular disorders (abnormalities of the eyes and vision).

What Is Affected?

As far as where the diseases are located, Crohn’s disease may affect all locations in the intestine from the mouth to the anal opening.  Not uncommonly, there may be intestinal lesions throughout the intestine with normal areas between each lesion.  These are called “skip lesions”.  The disease usually presents first in the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, so called ileocolic disease.

Crohn’s disease affects the full thickness of the intestinal lining when viewed under a microscope.  This is known as transmural disease, in that it affects all layers of the involved intestine.

Ulcerative colitis affects only the lining of the colon or rectum and therefore is said only to involve the epithelial layer, or most superficial layer of the colon or rectum.

With so many ways in which these diseases may present, it is best to discuss the issues with a trained colorectal surgeon, also known as a proctologist.  The surgeon will be able to untangle this group of strange symptoms in order to begin the road back to stability.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

Clearly, with a multitude of variables, help is needed for understanding and treatment.  The surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are well versed in the diagnosis and treatment of all forms of IBD and will help you in a calm and confidential manner.  You must take the first step toward health and schedule an appointment to see your physician.  (310)273-2310