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The Difference Between ‘Colitis’ and ‘Ulcerative Colitis’

Can you have both Crohn’s Disease AND Ulcerative Colitis? No. 

Can you have both Crohn’s Disease AND Colitis? Yes.

Let me explain…

In our community we often use the word colitis to refer to the IBD known as ulcerative colitis but is there a difference between what defines colitis and what defines ulcerative colitis?

What is Colitis?

Illustration of a colon that is red and has an angry face

The word colitis simply means inflammation of the colon. 

Col = 
itis = 
inflammation of

There are a number of reasons people get inflammation in their colons (colitis) such as: infection, food poisoning, lack of blood flow, exposure to radiation, parasites, bacteria, and chemicals. These types of colitis are not Ulcerative Colitis, rather the inflammation in the colon (colitis) is the result of something other than Inflammatory Bowel Disease. 

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

A chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine. Characteristics include inflammation and ulceration of the innermost lining of the bowel wall (the mucosa).  

Here is where it gets tricky!

Can you have both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis? No, you can not have both types of inflammatory bowel disease. 

Can you have both Crohn’s disease and colitis? Yes. It would not be incorrect to refer to inflammation present in the colon as ‘colitis’ in a patient who has Crohn’s disease. In fact any patient with Crohn’s disease who has inflammation located in their colons have colitis. It’s just that the colits is not the result of ulcerative colitis; it is the result of Crohn’s disease. Get me? 

Doctors sometimes forget that not all patients are aware of this and

should use more caution when using the word colitis to reduce confusion.

Do you have Crohn’s Disease and has your doctor talked to you about the inflammation located in your colon by using the word colitis? Oops! Did it make you think that you have both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis? 

So there ya have it! I hope that clears some things up and that you understand the word colitis a bit better now. 


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