The word “colitis” and the words “ulcerative colitis”. Be careful how you use them!

Can you have both Crohn’s disease AND ulcerative colitis? No. 

Can you have both Crohn’s disease AND colitis? Yes.

Let me explain…

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I wanted to write this blog to simply give some definitions on the word colitis, advise you to think about how you’re using it, and caution you on how you interpret how other people are using it.  After all, the more knowledge we have the better we can understand our diseases.

In our community we throw around the word colitis and use it to refer to the IBD known as ulcerative colitis. That’s okay - we shorten Crohn’s disease and refer to it as Crohn’s, and we shorten ulcerative colitis and just refer to it as colitis. Completely okay if you understand the differences between simply having colitis and having ulcerative colitis.

What is colitis? The word colitis simply means inflammation of the colon.  ”Col”=colon “itis”=inflammation of. There are a number of reasons people get inflammation in their colons (colitis) such as: chronic infections, food poisioning, irritable bowel syndrom, lack of blood flow, exposure to radiation, parasites, bacteria, chemicals. These ARE NOT ulcerative colitis. 

What is ulcerative colitis? A chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the colon/large intestine.  Characteristics include inflammation and ulceration of the innermost lining of the colon.  

Here is where it gets tricky! Can you have both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis? No, you can’t have both inflammatory bowel diseases. (read more about how you can’t have both diseases here). Can you have both Crohn’s disease and colitis? Yes. You can have Crohn’s disease which causes inflammation in your colon (colitis). In fact most people with Crohn’s disease have colitis, they however do not have ulcerative colitis. Get me? 

Doctors forget that not all patients are well versed and should use more caution when using the word colitis. Do you have Crohn’s disease and your doctor was talking about the inflammation located in your colon by using the word colitis? Oops! Now you think that you have both Crohn’s and UC! Since Crohn’s disease causes inflammation and can affect the entire digestive tract including your colon then it’s possible to have Crohn’s disease and colitis since colitis simply means inflammation of the colon.  It does not mean however that you have 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. As a health activist in this community I am going to try to make sure I refer to colitis as ulcerative colitis when i’m talking about the IBD. 

-Sara

*Disclaimer: If you like what i’m posting and would like to spread the word on IBD by reblogging, go for it! Just be sure to credit this original source with credit and a link back. Thanks-Sara