Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Understanding Crohn's & Ulcerative Colitis

The two forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) -- Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) -- have several signs and symptoms in common, but they are very different conditions. One of the main differences between CD and UC is the location of the disease. CD can affect the digestive tract anywhere between the mouth and the anus, while UC only affects the large intestine (or colon). A second important difference is that CD inflammation involves all layers of the intestinal wall and UC affects only the inner lining.

Another key difference between CD and UC is the presence of co-morbid (or associated) conditions. Strictures, fistulas, and fissures tend to be more common in CD, while toxic megacolon is more common in UC. Distinguishing between the two forms of IBD can be difficult at times, but knowing the difference between the two is extremely important for treatment.

IBD is not the same as IBS although often they are confused and people think they are the same. IBD is a disease and IBS is a syndrome.

The annual incidence of Ulcerative colitis(UC) and Crohn's disease ranges from 1 to 10 per 100,000 people annually. The peak age-specific incidenc occurs near the age of 20, and a second smaller peak occurs near the age of 50. The prevalence of UC and Crhon's diseae ranges from 10 to 70 per 100,000 people, but recent studies have shown prevalence as high as 200 per 100,000 people. In the United States, males and females are equally affected, but both whites and people of Jewish decent are at much higher risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease.

The Facts on Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and sores in the lining of the rectum and large intestine (colon). It's a chronic condition although symptoms can disappear for months at a time, only to flare up again unexpectedly. It typically first appears in men or women between the ages of 15 and 40, but occasionally this condition first occurs in people in their 60s.

Causes of Ulcerative Colitis

Researchers believe ulcerative colitis happens when the immune system overreacts in defending the body against a virus, bacteria, or dietary or environmental substance in the intestinal wall. It's still not clear what the exact trigger might be, but it's thought to vary from person to person.

Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease that tends to occur in people with a family history of the condition. It is related to other autoimmune conditions, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues instead of only fighting infections. Ulcerative colitis occurs most commonly in Caucasians, and particularly in people of Jewish heritage.

Certain environmental triggers can also lead to colitis. For example, people who live in cities are more at risk of developing the disease than those in rural areas.

Symptoms and Complications of Ulcerative Colitis

Bloody diarrhea is the main symptom of ulcerative colitis, caused by the inflammation in the bowel. People with colitis can have anywhere from three to 20 bowel movements daily, even losing control of their bowels and having diarrhea during sleep, in severe cases.

Other signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • lower abdominal pain and cramps (especially during defecation)
  • rectal bleeding
  • anemia (iron deficiency) due to blood loss in diarrhea
  • urgency to defecate (urgent bowel movements) or incontinence (loss of bowel control)
  • weight loss or other signs of malnutrition (e.g., tiredness or malaise)
  • fever over 37.5ÂșC, especially when disease symptoms are severe

Some people with colitis develop arthritis, skin rashes, or inflammation of the eye, and about 4% get liver disease. In children, ulcerative colitis can lead to limited growth. There are also acute complications like bleeding and potentially severe inflammation of the intestinal wall (toxic megacolon).

A few people with ulcerative colitis will eventually develop colon cancer. Only people with severe inflammation extending to the upper colon - about one in three cases - have a much higher risk of developing colon cancer. The risk of colon cancer also increases over time, but regular examination by your doctor can help to reduce the risk.

(The above information on UC was obtained from CHealth)

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