Ulcerative colitis and Crohn similarities

December 17, 2020


Crohn’s diseases and ulcerative colitis: similarities and differences

It occurs with diseases as common as the flu and the cold. It also occurs in neurodegenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer’s and senile dementia, or in psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. They are different concepts; however, as they are closely related because they have common symptoms, they belong to the same clinical specialty or they are located in the same organ of the human body, they are often confused with each other. The Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is not an exception. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that people tend to confuse.

Knowing the similarities and differences between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis not only is key to the patient. Having rigorous and detailed information is essential for everyone around him. The former will handle better his disease improving his quality of life. The latter will achieve the capacity of empathize with the patient to understand his vision of the reality, his opinions and his doubts by stablishing that bond so demanded of respect and understanding. 

Shall we talk about the distinct symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis? Do we find differences in the characteristics of the inflammation or the damages? What extra-intestinal manifestations can be detected in each one? Are there differences in the way those diseases occur?

Differences between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis 

When we talk about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), we refer to a set of chronic diseases that occur through outbreaks and in which the digestive tract may be affected. If the affectation occurs in the colon, we would be talking about ulcerative colitis. But, in the case of Crohn’s disease, it can be detected anywhere else in the digestive tract. 

Although the main difference lies in the affected area, there are more characteristics unique to each disease:  incidence, inflammation, complications, symptoms and blood emission in the stools. For example, its incidence: in Spain ulcerative colitis affects 58% of the population, whereas Crohn’s disease affects 42% of it.

Regarding inflammation, it should be noted that in the case of Crohn’s disease, it affects all layers of the intestine. The inflammation in ulcerative colitis is more superficial. With Crohn’s disease, stenosis and fistulas are observed as complications; whereas in ulcerative colitis these do not occur. We also find differences in the main symptoms that warn of the existence of these diseases and in the emission of blood in the depositions. For ulcerative colitis is the diarrhea and for Crohn’s disease is the abdominal pain. Finally, as far as the release of blood in the stool is concerned, we find that the ulcerative colitis patient usually presents blood in the stool on a regular basis, while the Crohn patient bleeds only if the colon is affected.

Similarities between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most representative pathologies in IBD. When we speak of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis we refer to inflammatory, chronic pathologies caused by a failure in the immune system. Both disrupt food digestion and nutrient absorption. Their cause is unknown, but it is known that genetic factors and other environmental factors are combined. Another common issue is that neither has a cure. 

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis resemble according to the profile of the patient in which they occur, the course of the disease, the appearance of extra-intestinal manifestations and the symptoms. 

Both tend to manifest themselves at a young age, with an average diagnosis around the age of 30. Half of the patients are between 20 and 40 years old and only 25% have IBD before the age of 20. Regarding gender, women and men are equally likely to suffer from these pathologies. This possibility is slightly greater for men in the case of ulcerative colitis and for women in Crohn’s disease.

It is common in both diseases to occur with periods of activity (outbreaks) and others of remission. Their extra-intestinal manifestations are another similarity. Although they are pathologies exclusive to the digestive system, they can also affect other organs outside it. Rheumatological, dermatological and ophthalmological complications are the most common. 

Finally, if there is anything very similar between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis that is their symptoms. Although some occur differently depending on the patient’s IBD, most of them are the same. The most frequent are diarrhea, abdominal pain, fiver, fatigue and anemia. Weight loss and psychological disturbances, especially the lowering in the person’s self-esteem, are also common. Finally, the stunting in growth and sexual maturation of children and adolescents are common symptoms too.

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