Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Background

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are long-lasting inflammatory diseases that cause irritation and swelling in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract is the group of organs from your mouth to your anus that digests your food and gets rid of your waste.

Crohn’s disease commonly affects the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine, but it can affect any part of your GI tract. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, stomach cramps, and pain.

Ulcerative colitis affects the lining of the large intestine and creates ulcers (tiny open sores) that produce pus and mucus. The most common symptom of ulcerative colitis is stomach pain and diarrhea with blood or pus.

Causes

The exact cause of these conditions are unknown. Many scientists believe that certain factors are involved, such as:

  • Autoimmune reaction – Bacteria or viruses trigger your immune system to attack the healthy cells lining your intestines by mistake, causing inflammation
  • Genetics – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis sometimes run in families
  • Environmental – Some studies show that certain medications and a high-fat diet can slightly increase your chance of getting Crohn’s disease

Treatment

There’s no cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, but there are medications that reduce inflammation and treat your symptoms. Treatment includes medications that are taken by mouth or given as a shot. In some cases, surgery may be needed.

Medications used to treat these conditions include:

  • Aminosalicylates to reduce inflammation
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system
  • Immunosuppressants to suppress or slow down your immune system
  • Antibiotics to lower the number of bacteria in your intestines, which may help reduce inflammation
  • Biologic response modifiers (biologics) to block specific chemicals involved in inflammation

Resources