Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease compose the two main constituents of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Individuals with IBD require lifelong treatment, and although the severity of this condition may vary between individuals, there is no known cure. These diseases are found in the digestive system of the body where food is digested and solid waste is expelled. The digestive system consists of the stomach, mouth, esophagus, intestines, as well as the rectum and anus. IBD involves inflammation and damage to the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract, Crohn’s disease involves inflammation anywhere from the mouth to anus, and colitis is restricted to the inflammation of the colon or large intestine. Although both of these conditions are similar to a considerable extent, there are some key differences that distinguish each in terms of effects and treatment.
Crohn’s disease affects specific areas along the inner lining of the digestive tract and can even invade deep into the layers of its tissue. Although the cause of this disease is not yet known, there are certain signals to indicate individuals at risk. These include inherited genes, where people retain a higher risk if close relatives are known to have been infected. As well, the immune system may malfunction when certain viruses or bacteria may cause white blood cells to enter into and attack the digestive tract. Smoking is also correlated with a high risk of Crohn’s disease. Some alarming signals for having contracted this disease include abdominal pain, continuous vomiting, and severe lack of energy. In terms of treatment, Crohn’s disease can be effectively managed and limited through medication. The typical symptoms include abdominal swelling, diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, obstruction, anal fissures, and rectal bleeding. In fact, many individuals are unable to work for at least a year after being diagnosed. Crohn’s disease may also cause occasional flare-ups of symptoms, followed by remissions.
Colitis, on the other hand, is only restricted to the colon and affects a single continuous layer of the inner lining. The symptoms and signs are similar to Crohn’s disease, but also include skin, joints, eye swelling, dehydration, and fatigue. Along with medication, individuals with colitis can also benefit with a change in diet. In fact, some types of food can aggravate the disease, whereas others can restore lost nutrients and promote healing. However, when debilitating enough, surgery can also be applied to remove the colon and cure this disease to a considerable extent. Similar to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is caused by heredity and immune system malfunctions.
Diagnosing both diseases constitutes several different options. The most common are x-ray scans, where a picture of internal body structures is taken using electromagnetic radiation. These scans can be used to gauge the visual condition of digestive organs. As well, endoscopy can be an especially critical technique for diagnosis, where a scope is inserted into the body and used to explore the gastrointestinal tract. Lastly, leukocyte scintigraphy, or a white blood scan, can also be applied to diagnose these diseases through white blood cells. These cells are in fact attracted to the patches of inflammation. Using radioactive white blood cells, a special camera can be used to track them to the affected areas to calculate the intensity and degree of inflammation.
This article has been corrected.
- October 9, 2018 at 4 a.m.: Changed: Bacterium to Bacteria