Chances are, you know one of the nearly 1 in 200 Americans who suffer from the debilitating pain and constant disruptions that come with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The physical and emotional toll it takes can be devastating. Inflammatory bowel diseases cause inflammation in the digestive and intestinal tract, and it can affect anyone men, women and children. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America was created to help those with IBD cope and to find a cure.
IBD: The basics
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common types of IBD. In ulcerative colitis, only the colon is affected; of the multiple layers of the intestinal wall, only the innermost lining of the colon, the mucosa, becomes inflamed in ulcerative colitis patients. Ulcerative colitis also spreads proximally, meaning it starts from the rectum and can spread continuously to the rest of the large intestine (colon).
Crohn’s disease, on the other hand, may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the lips to the anus. Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s can skip large segments of bowel before reappearing in others. The areas most often affected, however, are the lower part of the small intestine (ileum) and the large intestine (colon). Also, in Crohn’s patients, the inflammation doesn’t stop at the mucosa (tissue lining) and may burrow through the thickness of the bowel wall. Both are incurable, chronic conditions.