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The Symptoms and Treatments of Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Differences Between

Updated on February 22, 2018
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At 17, Angela was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. At 20, her colon was removed. She has a passion to share her knowledge of the disease.


An IBD is Not IBS

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are two very similar digestive disorders. They are both inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The basic difference between IBDs and IBS is that Crohn's and ulcerative colitis usually result in ulcerations IBS does not. One million people are afflicted with an inflammatory bowel disease each year. Half of them have ulcerative colitis and the other half have Crohn's disease.

One reason IBD is confused with IBS is because irritable bowel is often called spastic colitis, as well as colitis. Coincidentally, both IBDs can be referred to as just colitis since that merely means inflammation of the colon. Often times at the earlier phases of an IBD, a doctor may misdiagnose as irritable bowel syndrome. One of the biggest predictors that it might be something else is if you see blood in your stool. Keep in mind hemorrhoids can also cause blood in your stool, so do not automatically assume you have something more severe. Hemorrhoids is often an after effect of IBS and IBDs due to the frequent bowel movements.

Ulcerations in ulcerative colitis. With IBS, there will be no ulcerations.
Ulcerations in ulcerative colitis. With IBS, there will be no ulcerations. | Source

Does Stress Cause Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Stress Not a Cause

Contrary to popular belief, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases are not caused by emotional stress. That being said, stress can trigger a flare up, the same way in which all diseases can flare during a time of stress. There are many myths surrounding IBD's as well.


Due to the similarities of the diseases, they are often confused in both diagnosis and symptoms. The main difference is ulcerative colitis affects the colon, whereas Crohn's can target any part of your digestive system. That is not to say Crohn's is a more serious disease, they are both equally severe, it depends on the seriousness. Therefore, someone with Crohn's may have a more mild case than someone with ulcerative colitis. Unlike Crohn's disease there is a cure for ulcerative colitis. Having been "cured" of the disease, there are lifelong ramifications to being cured since the only true cure is a full removal of your large intestine. This should not be a decision to be taken lightly, as I have met numerous people who have regretted their decision.

Both are inherited diseases, in fact twenty percent of people with UC have one other close relative with another IBD disorder, either Crohn's or UC itself. One example, I have a dad with UC and an aunt with Crohn’s. Although, it is still very well unknown how to predict who will get this disease and who will not. Although it is known that it is inherited.

Not only can Crohn's affect a larger portion of the digestive tract, it also affects more layers of the colon wall. Ulcerative colitis only inflames the innermost lining, whereas Crohn's affects several layers of the intestinal wall. Again, this does not mean Crohn's patients are sicker, but yes they do have the potential to get more sickly than someone who has ulcerative colitis.


How is Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Diagnosed?

Stool tests are performed to eliminate possible infectious diseases as the cause. They may also do a CT scan on the abdomen. Once all other possibilities are eliminated your gastroenterologist may choose one of two procedures. These are both relatively painless, dependent on the degree of the disease. The first is sigmoidoscopy, where they check only rectum and lower colon area. The second is a test of the the entire colon called a colonoscopy, which allows the physician to take biopsies of the colon lining. You are usually awake for these procedures, but you are given a medication that has an amnesic effect; therefore, you will not remember much of the test. They may also do an endoscopy which is a tube you swallow, that shows the upper portion of the digestive system. This is more significant in diagnosing Crohn's, or in the case of UC, eliminating Crohn's as a possibility.


Many of the symptoms are very similar. They include, but not limited to:

  • abdominal pain and cramping
  • bloating
  • blood in the stool
  • loss of appetite
  • mucus in the stool
  • persistent diarrhea
  • ulceration in the digestive tract

There are also some common non-digestive related symptoms, such as delayed growth in younger children, eye irritations, fever, weight loss, and more severe PMS symptoms. Nausea is more commonly associated with Crohn's, Although it is present in more severe cases of UC.

Treatments for IBD

The most common treatments is medication. As stated earlier, UC can be cured. Having gone through the surgery, non-electively, I would not encourage anyone to do it electively unless their symptoms are severe. I am 8 years post-op, and although I can function normally, there are still things that are atypical about my digestion. The first few years, my symptoms seemed very similar to a mild case of the disease. What they do is they will remove your entire colon, and form a pouch, often called a j-pouch that will act as your colon. It is amazing how effective this structure is, but it takes years for it to adjust. During the adjusting time, things are not always very easy. This can be done in a three, two, or one step procedure. The more steps, the less chance of complications. The reason it is not encouraged for Crohn's patients is because even if the colon is the only affected area, chances of them getting sick in a different section of the digestive tract is very likely.

Feel free to ask any questions. If you think you have the disease, definitely contact your doctor. For the first five years post-op, I ran a website where I had contact with hundreds of people who had the disease. I can tell you very much what it like first-hand, as well as what others experienced. Medically speaking, I'm not qualified; therefore, a nurse or doctor needs to be notified. I have found that there are amazing nurses (and doctors) out there.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz


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    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      I'm glad that I answered the questions you had.

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 5 years ago

      Really interesting article! I found it difficult wading through google trying to find info on IBD. You answered all my questions.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Thank you so much for adding this knowledge to my hub! It always helps to have more insight!

    • profile image

      reflux 6 years ago from USA

      People will take Ulcerative colitis and Chrons as IBS because IBS and IBD have the same symptoms,but these are IBD.IBS is a syndrome, not a disease, it does not lead to colon cancer, and it does not cause bleeding. Ulcerative colitis, however, is a disease, can put patients at risk for colon cancer, and bleeding is a common symptom.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      I know people who are not quite as fortunate as me right now as well.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 7 years ago from Central United States of America

      Am thankful I do not have this problem, but know of several who do. It can be such a life-altering disease! Glad you are doing so well with your health!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Those are very great hubs! I might have to add them soon. :)

    • lotuslove19 profile image

      Sarika Mehra 7 years ago

      very well described ,I have written some articles on this you may like to read them . and

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      I'm glad to inform you. It's definitely a disease I'm well aware of.

    • edguider profile image

      edguider 7 years ago

      Never even read into Ulcerative Colitis, your hub put it all into perspective for me. Thanks..

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Thank you Money Glitch. The nomination is so exciting. :)

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Great info on Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis. I had heard of both but never could determine the difference. Thanks for sharing your insight and Congrats on being nominated to the HubNuggets Wannabe Contest for this week.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Thank you so much Faybe, I am glad that you have a better understanding of the diseases! And thank you so much. I am so geeked about the nomination!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      Wow, this is incredible information. I have friends who suffer from UC and one who suffers from Crohn's, I always though their symptoms were similar. but never knew the difference. You have been generous in sharing your experiences and knowledge with others. I know Crohn's sufferers feel very alone, as do my friends with UC. Congratulations on your nomination!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Thank you so much ripplemaker. I'll have to check out yours too!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Congratulations angela_michelle for your Hubnugget nomination! You are on the roll! hahahaha I wrote a hub about IBS and love this hub which explains the difference. Thumbs up! To the Hubnuggets,

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Betherann! Oh I take back what I said, I won last months hubbernugget! I didn't know I received another hubbernugget nomination! I just was notified in the mail. That is so cool! Two months in a row. That is just wild!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Trish, I hope your cases isn't very severe. It's hard to live with. I think the statistic is 20 percent of people who have the disease will have a relative who has the disease. So you are with the majority who don't have other family members who have the disease. Part of the reason they believe it is familial is because there are certain races who have higher prevalence, whereas area where they grew up or lived do not play a large factor. Basically, like many diseases, it can be dormant in several generations, then one person has the gene, but also has the triggers. Many diseases are like that, for instance type one diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis. Just because you have the gene, doesn't mean you will have it, but as you pass it down the generation, they are more likely to have it. Another reason they believe it is hereditary, is because there is a high correlation between identical twins. Which means chances of it being genetic are more likely rather than environmental. That being said, I'm quite certain environment plays a large role in that! My theory anyway.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      betherann, thank you very much. I actually ended up winning! That was kind of cool! I appreciate you voting this up!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 7 years ago from The English Midlands

      I was originally diagnosed with Crohns and later with UC. I haven't inherited it, though. No-one else in my family has it.

    • betherann profile image

      Beth Morey 7 years ago from Montana

      Voted up! Congrats on the HubNugget nomination.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Thank you, it was very important for me at one time, so I assumed there were others who need it as well!

    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 7 years ago

      this is good information thanks