Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are both ailments of the gastrointestinal tract. Because Crohn's and IBS share some of the same symptoms, they are often confused as the same disease. There are, however, important differences between them.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not a true disease but a combination of symptoms related to intestinal discomfort that can be treated. Crohn's disease is a progressive and incurable condition.
Crohn's is an autoimmune disease that attacks the entire gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. The result is painful inflammation and intestinal ulcers. IBS does not cause ulcers and tends to affect the stomach and small intestine. Crohn's causes fever and blood loss; IBS does not. IBS sufferers often pass large amounts of mucus, which helps in the elimination of waste. Crohn's patients may see only small amounts of mucus. Crohn's ulcers are easily seen in X-rays, but the effects of IBS are not. Another curious difference is that Crohn's patients are prone to psoriasis, while IBS sufferers are not.
Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome both affect the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms of both include abdominal cramping, diarrhoea and listlessness. Because Crohn's and IBS are both painful and inconvenient, they can cause depression. Both ailments can make a sufferer feel as though the bowels have not been completely emptied, even if they have been.
Cause of Crohn's
Crohn's is an inflammatory bowel disease, although the exact cause has not yet been determined. The disease predominantly afflicts people in western industrialised nations, but neither diet nor environment has been cited as a definitive cause. Crohn's is also thought to be caused by the immune system attacking the body rather than defending it.
Cause of IBS
IBS is not a true disease but a collection of intestinal symptoms. Factors contributing to IBS may include lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, dietary fat, poor digestion, anxiety and an ultrasensitive nervous system that upsets normal gastrointestinal balance.
Differences in Treatment
Crohn's is often treated with prescription drugs like prednisone, an anti-inflammatory medication that also helps suppress the immune system. A low-residue diet with elements that are easily digested is another form of treatment. IBS can be treated with a high-fibre diet that helps move stool along the gastrointestinal tract. High-fibre items include whole wheat, seeds, nuts, pasta, fruits and vegetables, but gas-causing items such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and beans should be eliminated. IBS can also be treated by reducing stress, avoiding laxatives and eliminating dairy products if you are lactose intolerant.
Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome can disrupt life and cause pain. They share similar symptoms but are very different conditions. If you have painful gastrointestinal symptoms, do not try to diagnose yourself. See your doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.