What are Crohn’s & Colitis

Home / Crohn’s & colitis / What are Crohn’s & Colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are conditions that cause inflammation of the digestive system. They are both types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This is not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Disease which is a condition that affects the digestive system.

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease can affect any area of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. It often affects the lower part of the small intestine called the ileum.

Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are pain in the abdomen and diarrhoea. Bleeding from the rectum, weight loss, joint pain, skin problems and fever may also occur. Other problems can include intestinal blockage and malnutrition. Children affected by Crohn’s disease may have growth problems.

Crohn’s disease is treatable but not curable. Treatment may include medicines, nutritional supplements, surgery or a combination of these options. Some people have long periods of remission when they are free of symptoms, but most will then relapse. Crohn’s disease seems to run in some families. It can occur in people of all age groups but is most often diagnosed in young adults.

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the rectum and colon. Ulcers form where inflammation has killed the cells that usually line the colon.

Ulcerative colitis can occur at any age, but it usually starts between 15-30 years-of-age. It also tends to run in families.

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are pain in the abdomen and bloody diarrhoea. Other symptoms may include anaemia, severe tiredness, weight loss, poor appetite, bleeding from the rectum, sores on the skin and joint pain. Children with the disease may have growth problems.

About half of people living with ulcerative colitis have mild symptoms, and there are several types of drugs can help control it. Some people have long periods of remissionwhen they are free of symptoms. In severe cases, doctors must remove the colon. This helps manage the disease, but there may be ongoing problems after the surgery.

How did Crohn’s disease get its name?

Crohn’s disease is named after Dr Burrill Crohn from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. In 1932 Dr Crohn and his two colleagues, Dr Leon Ginzburg and Dr Gordon Oppenheimer, published a paper describing 14 cases of ‘regional ileitis’. It is by virtue of alphabetisation only that Crohn’s name appeared as first author, and because this was the first report of the condition in a peer-reviewed journal, the disease became known as Crohn’s disease forever more.

'