GI Disorders: Crohn’s Disease and Colitis

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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is entirely different from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Having an irritable bowel syndrome means that there is the presence of pain and irritation. Mainly, there is irritability; however, there is no presence of inflammation. Therefore, inflammation and irritation are two separate things.

Inflammatory bowel disease is broken down into two different categories, namely:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Colitis/Ulcerative Colitis

Crohn’s Disease

As a test tip reminder, you can easily remember Crohn’s disease as “Crown’s disease” because of the granulomas that are present inside the gastrointestinal tract which looks like jewels to a crown. To further explain, let’s get into a quick roundup of the pathophysiology.

Crohn’s disease is a condition that can happen anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract – from the mouth to the rectum. The primary concern with Crohn’s disease is the presence of granulomas.


Granulomas happen when macrophages seclude bacteria like a small block and result in a protective covering, usually around a bacteria, foreign body, or virus; in most cases, tuberculosis viruses.

Upon detection of harmful, foreign bodies, macrophages will surround the infection and block it, which causes the appearance of little lumps. With a tuberculosis client, these little lumps are present during an X-ray scan. The presence of little lumps inside the lungs indicates that the client has tuberculosis or has a history of the disease.  

As for Crohn’s disease (Crown’s disease), the small granulomas attached to the bacteria are the ones causing the pain, distention, and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Colitis/Ulcerative Colitis

In colitis and ulcerative colitis, the large intestine or the colon is the main concern.

Ulcers are openings inside the gut that causes bloody stool (at least 15 episodes a day); this is the usual diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. The suffix, “-itis” means that there is the presence of inflammation. Therefore, with ulcerative colitis, there is an open source of bleeding inside the colon that also causes inflammation.

Colitis, on the other hand, is not about granulomas but scar formations with an inflamed colon. Due to the edema in the colon, there is a loss of colon absorption and elasticity.

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The causes for inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and colitis or ulcerative colitis are the three S’s, namely:

  • Stress
  • Sickness
  • Smoking

When the body has inflamed bowel disease, it attacks itself which is also known as an autoimmune disorder like myasthenia gravis. In this situation, the body thinks that it is its foreign enemy.

Nursing Considerations

When dealing with a client with a heightened immune system, the main goal is to decrease the elements that cause the condition to worsen. Therefore, the nurse has to make sure that the client:

  • Is not be exposed to stressful events or situations
  • Refrains from getting sick
  • Stops smoking 

These three causes are the main culprits for the outburst of this type of autoimmune disorder.

If you’re having a hard time studying for major nursing exams and the NCLEX®, head on to Simple Nursing’s website and YouTube channel to get a more simplified, concise approach to memorizing and remembering every single nursing-related topics.