Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to anus. Ulcerative colitis is restricted to the colon (large bowel).
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are pathologically different but share some common features. In both the intestines become swollen, inflamed and ulcerated. The diseases share many of the same symptoms including:
- persistent diarrhoea
- abdominal pain
- rectal bleeding
- weight loss
- skin or eye irritations
- delayed growth in children.
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic conditions and can be characterised by flare ups and periods of remission. The severity of symptoms, periods of remission and length of flare up vary from person to person. The investigation of CD or UC by a doctor usually involves taking a history of symptoms from the patient followed by a general examination and a series of more specific analysis such as rectal, bowel and blood tests, along with x-rays and analysis of stool samples.
It can often take time to confirm a diagnosis of CD or UC as the symptoms of both are shared with quite a number of other diseases. It is therefore necessary to exclude other causes before a definite diagnosis can be made.
Please see Useful Links for further resources and websites with information on IBD.