Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Or Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Demystifying Your Digestive Symptoms

If things like mapping out the quickest route to the restroom or bringing a veritable medicine cabinet of anti-diarrheal drugs whenever you leave the house, have become second nature to you, you may be wondering whether your frequent digestive discomforts are simply a byproduct of stress, diet, or other environmental factors or are a treatable illness. Conditions like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis (UC), celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often have overlapping symptoms, and self-diagnosis can be tough. Read on to learn more about these conditions and when it may pay to see a doctor for a concrete diagnosis.

What differentiates Crohn's disease from other digestive conditions?

Although the symptoms of Crohn's can also be indicative of any number of more minor digestive conditions, one of the main differences between Crohn's and other ailments is the long-term impact on your body and overall health. Crohn's disease affects the entire digestive tract, generating inflammation that can increase your risk of colon cancer, intestinal obstructions, and other serious ailments. Some symptoms of Crohn's disease, like bloody stool, can overlap with symptoms of colon cancer, making it tough for Crohn's sufferers to determine when to seek treatment.

Crohn's disease also isn't generally responsive to diet, exercise, or other lifestyle changes. While individuals suffering from celiac disease may be able to all but eliminate their digestive distress by going to a strict gluten-free diet, and those with IBS may be able to minimize symptoms by reducing caffeine consumption and managing stress, Crohn's sufferers may go through a plethora of elimination diets with no notable difference in symptoms.

Crohn's can impact any part of the intestine, but most Crohn's sufferers will notice that their symptoms seem to be concentrated in one specific area. Some Crohn's sufferers may have lower GI distress that doesn't kick in until well after a meal has been consumed, while others can have upper GI distress that manifests itself almost immediately after eating.  

When should you see a doctor for a diagnosis?

Even if you've suffered from digestive distress for so long that your symptoms seem like second nature, it's always a good idea to review your symptoms and habits with a physician. Although there's no cure for Crohn's, there are treatments that can help reduce the intestinal inflammation and resulting damage, minimizing your risk of long-term complications. And if it turns out you're suffering from UC, celiac disease, or IBS, not Crohn's, you'll be able to seek treatment for these conditions as well.

For more information, contact your local Crohns disease doctor.