Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are characterized by an inflammation of the mucosal lining of the intestine, and thus both conditions share certain symptoms. However, the extent and location of the inflamed bowel segments are different in each condition. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease manifest as fatigue, loss of appetite and sometimes a fever, with specific symptoms directly related to the bowel.
These symptoms include irregular bowel movements containing mucous and or/ blood, severe diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The inflammation may result in loss of blood through the bowel. This loss, which may take the form of so-called “occult” or hidden bleeding, can only be detected with a special test and may lead to anemia through the loss of iron.
In both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, symptoms may occur not only in the bowel. More than 25% of patients experience pain or even inflammation (arthritis) in larger and smaller joints of the spine and pelvis. As in other types of arthritis, this joint inflammation results in swelling, pain and restricted movement. The skin in patients with IBD may also react in the form of painful purplish-red areas of thickening, most commonly occurring on arms and legs. Somewhat less frequent symptoms include inflammation of the eyes, particularly the iris and conjunctiva. Both may also be associated uncharacteristically with inflammation of the liver.