What Is The Difference Between Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Celiac Disease?

It can be difficult to determine which stomach problem is ailing you, especially because many gastrointestinal issues have similar symptoms. Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease can all cause abdominal cramping or bloating, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and problems with defecation.

So, what is the difference between these three conditions?


Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the inner lining of your large intestine. The symptoms of UC often come on over time, and they can sometimes be severe and can sometimes lead to fatal complications. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, rectal pain, rectal bleeding, urgency to defecate, weight loss, fatigue, and fever.

While the exact causes are unknown, ulcerative colitis may be the result of an immune system malfunction. While there is no known cure, ulcerative colitis treatments can in some cases be very effective. Physicians will often prescribe anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids to help quell inflammation. They may also prescribe immune system suppressors, antibiotics, pain relievers, and anti-diarrheal medications. Sometimes patients suffering from UC elect to undergo surgery to help treat their condition.

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease both fall under the grouping of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) while Celiac disease does not. IBDs are very serious gastrointestinal diseases, and you will need to contact a colorectal specialist to treat these conditions.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s is a bowel disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract as well. The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease often spreads deep into the layers of affected tissue, and can cause severe and debilitating pain. Unlike U.C. which affects only the bowel, Crohn’s can affect any part of the digestive tract including the mouth. Symptoms include abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, malnutrition, blood in the stool, mouth sores, and perianal disease. In some cases Crohn’s can cause inflammation of the skin, eyes, joints, liver, or bile ducts.

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but heredity and immune system malfunction likely contribute to the development of Crohn’s. Crohn’s disease treatment is similar to ulcerative colitis’, with anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, immune system suppressors, pain relievers, and even sometimes vitamin B-12 shots. Surgery is also an option, and many patients with Crohn’s elect to change their diet and lifestyle to manage their symptoms.

Like ulcerative colitis, but unlike celiac disease, Crohn’s is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease. IBDs are very serious gastrointestinal diseases, and you will need to contact a colorectal specialist to treat these conditions.

Celiac Disease

According to Dr. Catherine Phillips, “Celiac Disease is commonly referred to as gluten-intolerance, and some physicians believe it may be an auto-immune disorder, however, the exact cause is not known.” While celiac disease may cause digestive symptoms, it may also cause non-digestive symptoms such as anemia, loss of bone density, mouth ulcers, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, acid reflux, mouth ulcers, and numbness or tingling in extremities.

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. If you have celiac disease, when you eat gluten an immune response in the small intestine is triggered and over time this response damages the lining of your small intestine and prevents the absorption of some nutrients.

Treatment for Celiac disease is relatively simple. Most people treat it with a strict diet change, completely eliminating gluten from their food consumption. Sometimes vitamins and supplements are recommended, and if the damage is extensive then a physician may prescribe steroids to deal with inflammation. However, celiac disease differs from Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis in that it is not an inflammatory bowel disease, so inflammation is rarely present.


Other Information

You should always speak with a gastrointestinal specialist if you are experiencing any of the symptoms laid out for any of these conditions. It is important for you to be thorough and honest with your physician, so that he/she can know exactly what is bothering you and how to best treat it. To learn more information about Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s disease, or Celiac disease, check out our other blog articles.