Inflammatory bowel disease has two distinct categories, and when being diagnosed with IBD, one will surely ask which of the two is the case. These two categories are Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. This short explanation will give you the basic knowledge to understand the differences between them. Nevertheless, both have several treatment options to put you at ease and make your daily life as effortless as possible.

Ulcerative Colitis affects only part of the digestive tract – the large intestine. This leads to pain felt typically in the lower left side of the abdomen with common occurrence of bleeding seen with faeces.

On the other hand, Crohn’s disease can affect the whole digestive tract – from the mouth down to the anus. This may be more bothersome, however it is worth noting that since this usually comes and goes, and several areas may lightly or never be affected.  The pain in Crohn’s is usually felt in the lower right side of the abdomen, and unlike Ulcerative colitis, bleeding is uncommon.

Both of these conditions may be coupled with fever during stressful periods, fatigue, weight loss if not treated for a substantial amount of time and nutritional imbalances if nutrients are sparse and a poor diet is followed. It is therefore important to include several healthcare professionals in the care of these conditions not just the referring doctor; such as a nutritionist for advice on nutrition, nurse for any administration of treatments that require help by the individual, pharmacist for advice on the best treatment tailored to the individual, and psychologist to help one overcome any personal stresses this condition may evoke on both the individual and their surrounding family members.

It also goes without saying that normal maintenance of one’s health should be maintained irrespective of the health of the individual. Therefore this includes good hygiene as promoted by WHO in Figure 2(1), including dental hygiene and yearly dental appointments for check ups, health screens as required and physical exercise. IBD can disrupt several normal day to day activities, however it is usually managed at home, unless sudden flare ups require hospital admission. Stress and other dietary factors discussed below are ways which can affect these flare ups, and therefore should be kept to a minimum. Continuing a normal day to day life is one of the key factors in living with IBD, and it is important to keep up any hobbies you may have, or perhaps it could also encourage you to take up new ones!

In the next blog we will be discussing why and how IBD comes about, and what you can do to decrease the chances of this.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support from doctors or psychologists on this issue you can reach out here.

Catriona Cutajar is a nurse and also a Fourth year Medical student. She forms part of Willingness Team.