Inflammatory bowel disease, similarities and differences

Inflammatory bowel diseaserefers to a set of chronic diseases. The digestive tract (from the mouth to the anus, in Crohn’s Disease, or the entire colon in Ulcerative Colitis) can be affected. It can reveal itself through outbreaks.

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease are among the most representative.

Inflammatory bowel disease affects men and women equally, and although it can occur at any age, usually between ages 15 and 35. The increase in recent years in children under 18 has been significant.  In fact, according to the latest data presented by the European Crohn´s and Colitis Organization and the European Federation of Crohn and Ulcerative Colitis Associations, in Spain, the incidence of this disease has increased by 200% in this age group.

Dr. Saturnino Sánchez Galdón, digestive specialist of Hospital Ochoa, speaks to us about these pathologies. He explains that it is an autoimmune disease, of unknown origin and with many theories about its cause.

Let’s differentiate the diseases referred to in this post.  Crohn’s disease can occur in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus, although generally the most affected areas are the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. Ulcerative colitis only affects the rectum-colon usually continuously from the rectum to the cecum (intraperitoneal pouch considered to be the beginning of the large intestine).

Ulcerative colitis occurs in the form of outbreaks, with periods of remission, where there are no symptoms.  Among the most frequent symptoms, in Crohn’s Disease, are diarrhoea and abdominal pain. In more severe cases, when the disease is not controlled, intestinal perforation and abscesses in the abdomen can occur.  This stage would require surgery.

It affects the walls of the large intestine (colon and rectum), producing small ulcers. As indicated above, like in Crohn’s disease, symptoms appear in outbreaks that alternate with phases of inactivity.

As in Crohn’s disease, symptoms range from diarrhoea to abdominal pain or the continuous feeling of making a stool and associated with blood and mucus mixed with faeces.

In this type of ailments, an early and accurate diagnosis is essential to treat and control the disease.  Endoscopy is one of the main tools to achieve the above.

Dr. Sánchez Galdón, who has just returned from the National Congress of Digestive Endoscopy, held in mid-November in Toledo, indicates how the latest advances in this technique have improved diagnosis, since these two diseases predispose to colon tumours, and small bowel tumours in the case of Crohn’s Disease. New materials have also been incorporated and endoscopic techniques allow not only to analyse the inside of the digestive tract, but also to remove large polyps or submucosal tumors and the management of bile and pancreatic tract problems, thus avoiding surgical interventions considered as the only solutions just a few years ago.

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