What are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis?
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic inflammation of the organs of the digestive tract. Over time, inflammation can result in numerous complications, including pain, weight loss, bleeding, intestinal blockage, and cancer.
Crohn’s disease can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, and often involves the full thickness of the bowel wall. It can also be patchy, involving different segments of the GI tract. Ulcerative colitis involves only the colon, and is typically continuous in location, starting at the bottom of the GI tract (the rectum) and extending up throughout the colon. Ulcerative colitis does not involve the small intestine or other organs of the digestive tract besides the colon.
Both diseases are variable in severity, symptoms, age of onset, and response to treatment. Both diseases respond well to treatment in the great majority of cases. Gastroenterologists are experts in the management of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative colitis, and IBD management is a particular area of expertise within NYGA.
How are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis diagnosed?
Symptoms that are common to both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis include:
If your doctor suspects IBD based on your symptoms and family history, you will typically undergo testing to confirm the diagnosis. We typically recommend blood and stool testing, imaging studies such as CT or MRI scanning, and a colonoscopy or endoscopy (or both) to look for signs of inflammation and other potential causes. During endoscopic procedures, we will biopsy abnormal-looking areas for our expert pathologists to examine under the microscope.
How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?
After we have made the diagnosis and accumulated the data we need, we will meet with you to discuss the treatment options. We will make these complex decisions collaboratively with you, taking into consideration your lifestyle, special concerns such as family planning, work schedule, travel needs, and other illnesses. Where necessary, we will involve allied specialists like dieticians or surgeons in your care. Drawing on our vast experience and network, we will help you settle on the treatment plan that is right for you. With modern medications, we can usually control your disease with medication to help reduce inflammation and control the aberrant immune system response. Successful management of IBD requires a close working relationship between patient and provider; at NYGA, for thirty years we have supported patients in navigating these complex illnesses.
The Doctors of NYGA: IBD in Our History
The doctors who founded NYGA had the benefit of intensive training by the students of Dr. Burrill Crohn.
Dr. Crohn was the pioneering gastroenterologist who first identified what became known as Crohn’s Disease, although he preferred to call the condition by the medically descriptive term “regional ileitis.” Dr. Crohn began his medical career as an intern at Mount Sinai Hospital, in 1907. He was promoted to head of gastroenterology in 1920.
Dr. Crohn’s students went on to become leading, nationally-recognized gastroenterologists in their own right. Many continued the productive association between Mount Sinai and GI thought leadership in their own careers. And they, in turn, instilled Dr. Crohn’s insightful approach and pioneering spirit into students like us.