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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Crohn's Disease?

According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation:

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract. While symptoms vary from patient to patient and some may be more common than others, the tell-tale symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:

Symptoms related to inflammation of the GI tract:

  • Persistent Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to move bowels
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation
  • Constipation (can lead to bowel obstruction)

General symptoms that may also be associated with IBD:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of normal menstrual cycle

Even if you think you are showing signs of Crohn’s Disease symptoms, only proper testing performed by your doctor can render a diagnosis.

People suffering from Crohn’s often experience loss of appetite and may lose weight as a result. A feeling of low energy and fatigue is also common. Among younger children, Crohn's may delay growth and development.

Crohn's is a chronic disease, so this means patients will likely experience periods when the disease flares up and causes symptoms, followed by periods of remission when patients may not notices symptoms at all.

In more severe cases, Crohn’s can lead to tears (fissures) in the lining of the anus, which may cause pain and bleeding, especially during bowel movements. Inflammation may also cause a fistula to develop. A fistula is a tunnel that leads from one loop of intestine to another, or that connects the intestine to the bladder, vagina, or skin. This is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

The symptoms you or your loved one experience may depend on which part of the GI tract is affected. Read more about the Types of Crohn's Disease and Associated Symptoms.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

According to The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation:

About half of all patients with ulcerative colitis experience mild symptoms. Be sure to consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • bowel movements become looser and more urgent
  • persistent diarrhea accompanied by abdominal pain and blood in the stool
  • stool is generally bloody
  • crampy abdominal pain

People suffering from ulcerative colitis often experience loss of appetite and may lose weight as a result. A feeling of low energy and fatigue is also common. Among younger children, ulcerative colitis may delay growth and development.

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis do tend to come and go, with fairly long periods in between flare-ups in which patients may experience no distress at all. These periods of remission can span months or even years, although symptoms do eventually return. The unpredictable course of ulcerative colitis may make it difficult for physicians to evaluate whether a particular course of treatment has been effective or not.

Read more about the Types of Ulcerative Colitis and Associated Symptoms.

What are the Causes of Ulcerative Colitis? Who is Affected?

Although considerable progress has been made in IBD research, investigators do not yet know what causes this disease. Studies indicate that the inflammation in IBD involves a complex interaction of factors: the genes the person has inherited, the immune system, and something in the environment. Foreign substances (antigens) in the environment may be the direct cause of the inflammation, or they may stimulate the body's defenses to produce an inflammation that continues without control. Researchers believe that once the IBD patient's immune system is "turned on," it does not know how to properly "turn off" at the right time. As a result, inflammation damages the intestine and causes the symptoms of IBD. That is why the main goal of medical therapy is to help patients regulate their immune system better.

Research sponsored by CCFA has led many scientists to believe that ulcerative colitis may be the result of an interaction of a virus or bacterial infection of the colon and your body’s natural immune system response. Normally, your immune system will cause temporary inflammation to combat an illness or infection, and then the inflammation will be reduced as you regain health. In people with ulcerative colitis, however, this inflammation can persist long after your immune system should have finished its job.

Ulcerative colitis may affect as many as 907,000 Americans. Men and Women are equally likely to be affected, and most people are diagnosed in their mid-30s. The disease can occur at any age and older men are more likely to be diagnosed than older women.