What Are Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?


Quick Answer

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine, explains the Crohn's and Colitis Association of America. Crohn's disease is a similar condition that causes inflammation in any part of the digestive tract. The two diseases cause similar symptoms, including diarrhea, rectal bleeding and abdominal cramps.

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Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis share many features; both are related to abnormal responses of the immune system, explains the Crohn's and Colitis Association of America. In people with inflammatory bowel disease, the immune system mistakes benign cells in the digestive tract for bacterial or harmful cells and attacks them, causing the symptoms associated with these diseases. For many Crohn's and ulcerative colitis patients, these symptoms include an urgent need to move the bowels, the sensation of incomplete evacuation and constipation. Some patients also experience fatigue, loss of appetite, night sweats and fever.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis run in families, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Association of America. Approximately 1.4 million Americans have these conditions, and Caucasians are more likely to suffer from them than members of other ethnic groups. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease may be treated with corticosteroids, immunosuppressant drugs or antibiotics, according to WebMD. Patients may also find relief from anti-diarrhea medications. Fluid replacement should be used to counteract dehydration.

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