The two forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) -- Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis -- have several signs and symptoms in common, but they are very different conditions. One of the main differences between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is the location of the disease. Crohn's disease can affect the digestive tract anywhere between the mouth and the anus, while ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine (or colon). A second important difference is that in Crohn's disease, inflammation involves all layers of the intestinal wall, and ulcerative colitis affects only the inner lining.
Another key difference between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is the presence of comorbid (or associated) conditions. Strictures, fistulas, and fissures tend to be more common in Crohn's disease, while toxic megacolon is more common in ulcerative colitis. Distinguishing between the two forms of IBD can be difficult at times, but knowing the difference between the two is extremely important for treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Crohn's Disease:
Signs and Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis:
Abdominal pain and cramping
Blood in the stool
Loss of appetite
Mucus in the stool
Ulceration in the digestive tract
Urgency to move the bowels (tenesmus)
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Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. "What Is Crohn's Disease?" CCFA.org 2012. 27 Aug 2012.
Sachar DB, Walfish AE. "Crohn's Disease (Regional Enteritis; Granulomatous Ileitis or Ileocolitis)." The Merck Manual January 2007. 13 Apr 2008.
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. "What is Ulcerative Colitis?" CCFA.org 2012. 27 Aug 2012.
Sachar DB, Walfish AE. "Ulcerative Colitis." The Merck Manual January 2007. 13 Apr 2008.