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Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis FAQs

Rachel Morrell

Man suffering with ibd

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

What are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis?

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Both conditions cause chronic inflammation and include symptoms like abdominal discomfort, fever, cramping, diarrhea, weight loss and rectal bleeding. IBD affects about 1.6 million Americans, but many cases remain undiagnosed because IBD shares symptoms with many other digestive disorders.

IBD can affect anyone, but research suggests genetics play a role. Caucasian people are at higher risk for IBD, especially Jewish people of European descent. Studies also show that risk of IBD is steadily increasing for people who are African American or Hispanic.

If you or anyone in your family has Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or another form of IBD, be bold and start a conversation about the topic. While it may feel uncomfortable to discuss IBD openly, nothing compares to the pain of suffering in silence. Your initiative could help beloved family members seek the medical treatment they need.

To get started, you may want to include the following questions and answers:

What causes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis?

Both diseases stem from an atypical immune system response. For an unknown reason, specific cells and proteins designed to protect the body from infection attack the GI tract and cause inflammation.  

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis?

Every case is different, but symptoms may include stomach pain, bowel urgency, constipation, diarrhea, feeling of incomplete evacuation, fever, night sweats, loss of appetite, abnormal menstruation and rectal bleeding.

What is the difference between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis?

Crohn's disease can affect any location along the digestive tract, but ulcerative colitis causes inflammation only in the colon.

Can I manage IBD on my own?

IBD is a chronic condition that has no cure. Without proper treatment, it can lead to dehydration, malnutrition and even life-threatening complications. You need to seek a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist for treatment and consistent follow-up care.

Can I live a normal life with IBD?

With proper treatment and regular care, you can live an active lifestyle with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. There are many lifestyle changes you can make in diet, exercise and stress reduction to manage your symptoms.

What if I think I have IBD?

If you think you have IBD, contact a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist for a full exam and consultation. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis require prompt treatment to prevent damage to the GI tract. IBD also increases the risk of colon cancer, so people with IBD and their relatives may need to have a colonoscopy at an earlier age or more frequent intervals.

Click here and select your state for a list of gastroenterologists in your area.

Related Articles:

What is the Difference Between IBS and IBD?
Detecting IBD During a Colonoscopy
Hemorrhoids vs. Colon Cancer



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