Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Conditions Require Long-Term Management

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are conditions that fall under the umbrella term of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and both require management, and sometimes treatment, for a lifetime. However, with proper care from a facility that specializes in these diseases, you can expect to have a good quality of life. The University of Michigan Inflammatory Bowel Disease program is dedicated to the comprehensive medical and surgical treatment of adult patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Our dedicated inflammatory bowel disease specialists (along with the support staff) exclusively treat IBD.

What you should know about Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis: 

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis fall under.
  • Crohn's disease and colitis are easily confused because both have similar symptoms and treatments, but also distinct differences. With a series of tests, your doctor can usually tell ulcerative colitis from Crohn’s disease; however, in some cases the two diseases can’t be distinguished from each other.
  • The diseases affect men and women about equally.
  • While the diseases can occur at any age, they often start between the ages of 15 and 25 and last a lifetime.
  • Crohn’s disease is more common in people with a family history of the disease.
  • Ulcerative colitis affects about 600,000 people in the U.S, while Crohn’s disease affects about 700,000 people. 

Our IBD Center provides an integrated approach to the personalized care of patients, including immunosuppressive drug therapies, surgical treatments, nutritional management, and psychological and spiritual support. 

To help you, your friends and family better understand Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, we’ve created a series of short, educational videos about Inflammatory Bowel Disease called IBD School. This video series was created so you can be sure your information is reliable. We also make sure it’s easy to understand. Our goals are for you to understand your disease, understand your choices of tests and treatments, and make more informed decisions that will improve your health and well being.

Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease

To diagnose Crohn’s disease or colitis, we start with a comprehensive examination and collecting a thorough history. A number of tests are needed to confirm diagnosis. They may include:

  • Colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy: Used for initial diagnosis, both use a thin, flexible tube with camera to examine different areas, including the colon, small intestine and large intestine to see any ulcers, bleeding and inflammation.
  • Upper endoscopy: Uses a thin, flexible tube with camera inserted through the mouth, following the tract to the stomach and upper small intestine to look for bleeding, ulcers and inflammation.
  • Capsule endoscopy: A capsule containing a camera is swallowed by the patient to take pictures along the digestive tract not easily reachable by other procedures (capsule passes normally in the stool).
  • Laboratory tests: Blood work plus stool samples to check for bacteria and intestinal bleeding.
  • CT interography and MR interography: Specialized radiology tests that evaluate the small intestine, an area of the gastrointestinal tract that is beyond the reach of colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, but is often where Crohn’s disease is present.
  • Imaging tests: Collaborating with experts in Radiology for imaging and interpreting gastrointestinal abnormalities, including abdominal x-rays, barium enema, computed tomography (CT scan), fistulogram (for patients with Crohn’s disease to examine fistulas) and MRI.

Treatment Options for Crohn's and Colitis

Our team of experts offers broad-based knowledge in every area of IBD treatment, including innovative immune-suppressing drug therapy. And, we can offer patients treatment options only available in large centers such as ours.

The type of treatment varies from patient to patient. We determine treatment based on symptoms, severity and other characteristics of the disease and then customize to fit your individual needs. IBD treatments include:

  • Medicines: A wide variety of medications can be used to treat both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Surgery: Lack of response or intolerance to medications, inability to maintain diet, lifestyle changes or pre-cancer cells are all possible reasons for surgery. There area a number of surgical options. If perforation or massive bleeding occurs, emergency surgery is usually required.
  • Therapeutic trials in clinical research: We have an active and robust clinical studies and research program, which includes access to investigational therapies and receiving closer monitoring.
  • Diet: Changes in diet and nutrition reduce irritation and aggravation of symptoms. Our nutritionist will work with you to help you create a plan and answer your questions.
  • Complementary and alternative medicine: Some new alternative treatments for IBD are being studied at the University of Michigan. While there is no secret cure available on the Internet or via a supplement, and some supplements can even be dangerous for a person with inflammatory bowel disease, experts are still learning about alternative therapies, and we are glad to discuss these options with our patients. 

Specialty Clinics for Crohn’s and Colitis

Many patients are diagnosed with IBD in their late teens. Our Pediatric to Adult Transition Clinic and College Clinic, which have gained national attention and recognition, are two important ways to help this segment of our patients get needed information, adjust more easily to adulthood and possibly college, and ensure their healthcare remains a priority as they make room for other important times of their lives.

IBD Research and Clinical Trials

The University of Michigan Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center is nationally recognized for clinical and laboratory research. The majority of our referrals are patients who have already tried the treatment options available for IBD and are looking for the very newest therapies they can’t get anywhere else. We have multiple open clinical trials investigating new therapies and diagnostics for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis for those who qualify. Learn more at IBD Clinical Trials and Research. 

Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment to discuss treatment for Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, call us at 888-229-7408.