Crohn's Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis:

Crohn’s Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis: Bowel Disorders to Learn in Nursing School

Today’s name of the game: Bowel disorders! Get ready, because we are going to go over the general similarities and differences between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s Disease


Now with almost every bowel disorder, you are going to see cramping abdominal pain and diarrhea, but with that, a person with Crohn’s disease will have five to six stools per day. Because Crohn’s disease affects the terminal ileum, malabsorption and weight loss are often seen. Along with malabsorption, you will often see anemia, because iron is absorbed in the terminal ileum. See how those dots are connected?   


Complications of Crohn’s disease include bowel obstruction, which often requires surgical intervention. Another complication is the development of fistulas, which are are abnormal openings between two adjacent hollow organs. Fistulas will allow fecal matter into the urine, (termed fecaluria), which often create high-risk scenarios for urinary tract infections, peritonitis or abscesses, depending on where the fistula is located. Eeesh.

Ulcerative Colitis


Here again, we see cramping abdominal pain. In ulcerative colitis though, you’ll see that a person will have ten to 20 stools per day, and those stools may be bloody. Tenesmus occurs here, which is the very unpleasant sensation of the need to defecate immediately (“I gotta go right now!”) despite having an empty colon.


A complication often seen in ulcerative colitis is hemorrhage. Why? Remember that a symptom may be bloody diarrhea, from up to ten to 20 stools per day. That’s a lot of blood loss.

So there you have a high-level look at Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. You can review these and other disorders inside of the Picmonic learning system, making sure you solidify those facts with fun characters and stories.

As always, good luck studying!


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Marlee Liberman

Marlee Liberman, RN, Master Nursing Scholar

As a registered nurse, Marlee understands the struggles that nursing school throws at you – not to mention the overwhelming pressure preparing for the NCLEX®! Marlee brings a unique skill set and perspective to Picmonic with her previous degree in broadcast journalism, her creativity in video production, and her wandering nomad lifestyle. Her blend of talents provides her with the knack for simplifying complicated concepts and demystifying the world of nursing.

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