Similarities and Differences between Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis


While Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis can be perceived as the same type of disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, there are distinct differences.



Both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Similar symptoms include: diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, cramping, rectal bleeding, smaller appetite and urgent need to have a bowel movement. These symptoms may not be continuous between flares. Most people are diagnosed as a young adult. There is currently no known cause for either of these conditions but certain foods, environmental factors or genetics can be triggers.


There are 3 main differences between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease that break down into: location, inflammation, and layers affected. These key differences ultimately affect treatment.

The first difference is that Ulcerative Colitis specifically occurs in the colon, while Crohn’s Disease can occur anywhere in the GI tract. Second, UC is continuous inflammation of the colon and Crohn’s has inflamed areas mixed in with healthy parts. Lastly, Crohn’s can occur throughout all of the layers of the bowel walls, while UC is only on the innermost lining of the colon. Crohn’s can also cause problems with mouth sores and anal tears or ulcers.



Getting the right diagnosis is difficult. Misdiagnosis is more common than one would think. Many times, people are diagnosed with UC and they actually have Crohn’s.
When trying to find a diagnosis, most doctors will perform X-rays, MRIs, and endoscopies. A colonoscopy is a specific type of endoscopy that is performed to examine the large intestine and the ileum. It can help diagnose and decipher the severity of the Crohn’s or UC. This test can also determine if there is another digestive issue.



There is no cure for either Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. However, there are ways to manage your symptoms.

Since these conditions are so similar, many of the treatment options do overlap. Certain medications can help reduce inflammation for both UC and Crohn’s patients. Sometimes cases are so severe that they result in surgery for both Crohn’s and UC. Vitamin therapy can help get patients the vitamins they are deficient in. Because those with Crohn’s and UC have trouble absorbing nutrients it is important that they take supplements to help them get the vitamins they need. Lifestyle changes such as changing your diet & exercise routine are also recommended for both conditions. Stress management is key to reducing flares as well so try to do activities that you enjoy!