Difference between Ulcerative and Crohns

The Difference Between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease have both similar and distinct characteristics. Learn more.

Ulcerative colitis AND Crohn’s disease

Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are a group of conditions called Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). IBD is an autoimmune condition, meaning a condition where the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body.

There is substantial overlap, but Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease have somewhat different disease characteristics. The symptoms and signs that are common are diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, fatigue, blood in the stools, unintentional weight loss, and reduced appetite.

Ulcerative Colitis

  • Ulcerative Colitis only affects the large bowel (large intestine), with
    inflammation and sores (ulcers) along the lining of the large intestine
    and rectum.
  • Ulcerative Colitis may cause a serious condition, called toxic
    megacolon, in which the colon may rapidly widen and swell.
  • Lower intake of omega-6 fatty acids and higher intake of omega-3
    fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of developing Crohn’s

Crohn’s Disease

  • Crohn’s Disease can affect the entire digestive tract (mouth to anus),
    and often can involve the deeper layers of the digestive tract.
  • Crohn’s Disease involves the full thickness of the intestinal wall.
    Thickening and narrowing of parts of the intestine occurs over time
    causing blockage. Surgery may be required to remove the diseased
    portion of the intestine.
  • Fistula, an abnormal connection between different body parts, is a
    common complication of Crohn’s Disease. Fistulas near or around the
    anal area are the most common kind.
  • Smoking is a risk factor for Crohn’s Disease but not Ulcerative Colitis.
  • High fiber intake has been associated with a decrease in risk of
    Crohn’s Disease, but not Ulcerative Colitis.

Ulcerative ColitisCrohn’s Disease
PrevalenceApproximately 907,000 Americans currently have ulcerative colitisApproximately 780,000
Americans currently have Crohn’s disease
GenderSlight male predominance in ulcerative colitisSlight female predominance
in adult-onset Crohn’s disease
Location of InflammationInvolves large bowel and rectumCan involve any component of the gastrointestinal tract
from the mouth to the
area in and around the anus
Extent of InflammationThe inflammation
occurs only in innermost layer of the intestine lining
Inflammation may extend through the entire
intestine of the bowel wall
Pattern of InflammationMay spread continuously to the entire colonAppears in ‘patches’ affecting some areas of the GI tract while leaving other sections completely untouched
SymptomsRectal bleeding or blood in stools occurs more often than with Crohn’s diseaseUnique symptoms include mouth sores, anal tears, ulcers, infections narrowing of the intestine
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