Friday, May 24, 2013

Crohn's or Colitis?

In the realm of disorders that affect the digestive tract there is often some confusion over diagnosing specific conditions. Many of these disorders tend to overlap in terms of symptoms and signs. Since it is often difficult to distinguish one form of irritable bowel disease (IBD) from another, diagnosis is often a time-consuming procedure wrought with the painstaking approach of trial-and-error.

Two forms of IBD that are frequently confused are Crohn's Disease and colitis. Each of these diseases is strikingly similar in symptomology. Each condition can result in severe diarrhea, extensive episodes of abdominal cramping, loss of energy, fever, reduced appetite, and weight loss. Each of these diseases is caused by tissue inflammation. According to current data up to two million people in the United States have either Crohn's Disease or colitis.

Crohn's Disease usually affects the small intestine, however, it can manifest in other places throughout the body including the esophagus, stomach, appendix, anus, duodenum, and large intestine, colitis, on the other hand, strictly affects the colon.

Sufferers of both Crohn's Disease and colitis experience periods where the respective diseases fade into remission. Each, however, is marked by the tendency to experience sudden flare-ups which can drastically reduce quality of life. While the physical symptoms are similar, the psychological effects from the diseases also mimic one another. Many sufferers fall into depression and withdraw from social situations due to the fear of sudden flare-ups. Surprisingly, one of the most commonly prescribed medications for Crohn's and colitis is antidepressants.

Treatment, disregarding the emotional impact of these forms of IBD, is also similar. Drugs are generally the first option. The classes of these drugs include antibiotics, immune suppressants, biologic therapy, immunomodulators, and corticosteroids.

Drugs will not cure either disease. Colitis can be cured, but surgery to remove the colon is required. Since Crohn's can affect a wider region of the body, surgery can alleviate some of the more severe symptoms, but this does not mean that the disease cannot spring up in other places, thus it remains incurable.

Experts on IBDs recommend similar methods of approaching the maintenance of each disease on a daily basis. Exercise, reducing stress levels, maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding certain foods, taking various vitamins and supplements, and keeping a food diary can all be excellent ways of keeping the diseases in check. With either condition it is important to schedule regular medical check ups to ensure serious damage to the digestive tract is avoided.

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