Crohn’s Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis–What Is the Difference?

January 1, 2022

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis fall under the heading of inflammatory bowel disease, abbreviated IBD. IBD appears to have a genetic component, running in families, as well as being related to the immune system. More research is needed to find the exact cause. Signs and symptoms of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are:

  • Abdominal cramping pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Tenesmus, the urgent need for a bowel movement
  • Feeling of incomplete bowel emptying
  • Poor appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Night sweats
  • Irregular periods or rectal bleeding with periods

Crohn’s disease consists of inflammation throughout the digestive system, while ulcerative colitis affects the colon alone. Ulcerative colitis is more likely to cause bright red bleeding from the rectum, although this can occur with Crohn’s disease as well. Crohn’s disease may cause mouth sores, anal tears, ulcers, infections, and intestinal narrowing.

Both conditions are diagnosed with colonoscopy, in which a fiberoptic tube is placed into the rectum and advanced into the intestine. Ulcerative colitis shows evenly distributed inflammation, while Crohn’s disease skips areas. In Crohn’s disease endoscopy is also used. An endoscope is entered through the mouth and down through the esophagus to find inflammation in the upper digestive tract.


Aminosalicylates work by reducing inflammation in the cells lining the digestive tract. Some reduce inflammation of the joints, or arthritis, that can accompany IBD.

  • Azulfidine (Sulfasalazine)
  • 5-aminosalicylate (5-ASA) drugs
    • Delzicol (mesalamine)
    • Salofalk (mesalazine)
    • Dipentum (osalazine)
    • Colazal (balsalazide)

Corticosteroids are another anti-inflammatory type of medication.

  • Prednisone
  • Medrol (medrol)

Immunomodulators suppress the immune system from attacking the digestive tract.

  • Imuran (azathioprine)
  • Purinethol (6-mercaptopurine)
  • Sandimmune (cyclosporine)
  • Prograf (tacrolimus)
  • Rheumatrex (methotrexate)

Biologics are antibodies against certain proteins that cause inflammation.

  • Humira (adalimumab)
  • Amjevita (adalimumab-atto)

Did you know? QuickMD can refill your IBS medications remotely via telemedicine and prescribe prednisone or other medications online.

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