Signs and Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis and symptoms of Crohn's disease are different

Doctor and patient viewing colonoscopy images
People with IBD will often have colonoscopies on a regular basis. Expect to form a relationship with your physician and see them frequently to manage the IBD. Image © leezsnow / Getty

The two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis—have several signs and symptoms in common, but they are very different conditions. One of the main differences between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is the location of the disease. Crohn's disease can affect the digestive tract anywhere between the mouth and the anus, while ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine (or colon). A second important difference is that in Crohn's disease, inflammation involves all layers of the intestinal wall, and ulcerative colitis affects only the inner lining.

Another key difference between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is the presence of comorbid (or associated) conditions. Strictures, fistulas, and fissures tend to be more common in Crohn's disease, while toxic megacolon is more common in ulcerative colitis. Distinguishing between the two forms of IBD can be difficult at times, but knowing the difference between the two is extremely important for treatment. Here you will find a list of symptoms of ulcerative colitis and symptoms of Crohn's disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Crohn's Disease

Intestinal Symptoms

Non-Intestinal Symptoms

Associated Conditions

Signs and Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Intestinal Symptoms

Non-Intestinal Symptoms

Associated Conditions

A Word From Verywell

While IBD has many potential signs and symptoms, not every person with IBD experiences all of them. The magnitude of the symptoms can be highly variable; one person may experience extreme diarrhea but another may cite pain as being their most problematic symptom. Because IBD is also associated with many extra-intestinal manifestations, it's important to take new symptoms seriously and get them evaluated. Something that seems small at the time could develop into a bigger problem if it's not managed properly. For that reason, keeping a solid relationship with a gastroenterologist and other healthcare professionals is 


Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. "What Is Crohn's Disease?" 2014. 

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. "What is Ulcerative Colitis?" 2014. 

Sachar DB, Walfish AE. "Crohn's Disease (Regional Enteritis; Granulomatous Ileitis or Ileocolitis)." The Merck Manual May 2013. 

Sachar DB, Walfish AE. "Ulcerative Colitis." The Merck Manual May 2013.