Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and ulcerative colitis both cause digestive tract pain and have similar symptoms. However, they are very different conditions with distinct treatments.
What is the difference between IBS, Chron's disease, ulcerative colitis and IBD?
They are long-term disorders that irritate your digestive tract and can cause pain, discomfort, inflammation, bleeding and ulcers. IBS differs from IBD as it does not cause damage to your digestive tract and can often be treated with medication and lifestyle changes. IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are lifelong illnesses that damage your digestive tract – but the good news is that they can be managed through medication or surgery. We’ll work with you and your gastroenterologist to elevate pain and symptoms to help you return to what you love.
There are two main conditions of IBD – Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Both cause inflammation and pain and trigger your immune system.
IBS, on the other hand, causes food to move too fast or slow through your intestines. It can be caused by stress, diet, infection or hormonal changes. You may be at a higher risk if you smoke, take certain medications or eat a high-fat diet.
Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disease that can irritate any part of your digestive tract (large and small intestine). There are 5 different types, depending on where in the digestive tract the disease affects.
The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, and while stress and eating certain foods don't cause Crohn's, both can worsen symptoms. Symptoms may flare up at times, while at other times, you may have mild to no symptoms at all. When symptoms flare, they may include:
- Cramping and abdominal pain
- Eye redness or pain
- Intestinal obstruction
- Joint pain
- Joint soreness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly thinks you have an infection and begins attacking healthy tissue instead of protecting it. In the case of ulcerative colitis, this response can result in inflammation and sores in your large intestine (colon and anus).
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary depending on the location and amount of inflammation in your body, may include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
- Rectal bleeding and pain
- Urgency or inability to have a bowel movement
- Weight loss
IBS affects the small intestine, large intestine and colon. IBS is more common than in women and those assigned female at birth (AFAB). While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, it can be managed with antibiotics, medication and dietary changes. The good news is that IBS is a one-time thing for 3 out of 10 people and, in general, symptoms include:
- Stomach pain and cramping
- Diarrhea, constipation or both
- Stomach bloating and swelling
- Excessive gas
- Occasionally experiencing an urgent need to move your bowels
Typically, treatment for IBD starts with medication to reduce inflammation. For some people, medications control and eliminate symptoms for months to years. Symptoms may change or worsen for others, and your doctor may recommend surgery. The goal is to get and keep you in remission so you can do the things you love without discomfort and pain.
Sometimes, surgery is the best option to treat or help with symptoms. We will recommend the best surgery choice based on your symptoms, type of disease and location. Our surgeons will help you decide the best path for you, which may include:
- Abscess drainage
- Emergency for blockage, perforation (hole in intestine), or toxic megacolon
- Fistula removal
- Large bowel resection
- Ostomy surgery
- Small bowel resection
You may be able to manage and even prevent symptoms by working with your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist and regularly taking medications, changing eating habits and quitting smoking. We can refer you to one of our registered dietitians for nutritional support. Medications we may recommend for you, include:
- Antidiarrheal medication
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Vitamins + supplements (like probiotics)
You may be a good fit for a clinical trial. Ask your doctor if you meet the criteria for any exciting trials. Participation in clinical trials is voluntary, so if it’s not where your comfort lies, just let us know.