IBS vs. Mild Crohn's

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Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2011
Total Posts : 55
   Posted 3/18/2011 12:12 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi everyone,
People have been so helpful here about all my questions. Thank you!!! I just some more. I'm currently undergoing Crohn's testing, and the doctor is pretty convinced I have Crohn's based on my history and number of extra-intestinal symptoms. I'm having a Colonoscopy on March 29th, but I'm really worried they won't find anything and I'll have to wait even longer to find out the truth. I'm starting to doubt my symptoms. I do have rectal bleeding that's not from fissures or hemorrhhoids, but it's not tons of blood, sometimes just a few chunks. I have lower right abdominal pain, but it's not constant, and it's not as debilitating as people here describe. I have the diarrhea, but I'm not bone skinny. I have history of uveitis, arthritis and mouth ulcers, but I also have psoriatic arthritis and gluten intolerance, which might explain those symptoms. I know the only way of figuring out whether its Crohn's or IBS is a colonoscopy, since there has to be inflammation for it to be an IBD. However, is there any way to tell symptomatically if it's mild Crohn's or IBS?

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2005
Total Posts : 14995
   Posted 3/18/2011 12:45 PM (GMT -7)   
I know you don't want to hear this, but I highly suspect your doc is right. With IBS you do not bleed or have many of the other symptoms you have described.

You need to get that colonoscopy, thats the best way to get diagnosed. Even if they don't see something with the naked eye, it will show up in the biopsies. So make sure your doc takes biopsies.

Also, everyone on this forum suffers with some similar symptoms. But what one has, another may not. So not everyone will suffer the same. Take a deep breath, you only have a few more weeks till you have your answers.

Gail*Nanners* Co-Moderator for Crohns Disease
Crohn's Disease for over 35 years. Currently on Asacol, Protonix, Estrace, Prinivil, Diltiazem, Percoset prn for pain, Zofran, Phenergan, Probiotics, Calcium, Vit D, and Xanax prn. Resections in 2002 & 2005. Also diagnosed w/ Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, & Anxiety. Currently my Crohns is in remission, but my joints are going crazy!

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 3/18/2011 1:03 PM (GMT -7)   
First of all for clarification are you asking if you would have similiar sx between Crohn's and IBS or IBD ? Let me see if I can help you out ?
Crohn's disease may be confused with a number of digestive disorders associated with abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements, including the following:
Ulcerative colitis. Crohn's and colitis are the most common conditions among a group of disorders known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). They are closely related, but ulcerative colitis typically affects only the colon, while Crohn's can affect any part of the digestive tract. When Crohn's occurs only in the colon — and it can do so at times — it can be difficult to distinguish between the two disorders. However, certain complications can make the diseases easier to identify. For example, fistulas (abnormal connections between two organs or between an organ and the skin) and strictures (abnormal narrowings of organs such as the intestines and the esophagus) are seen more frequently with Crohn's disease.

Another useful way to distinguish these disorders is the pattern of inflammation. During colonoscopy,  while ulcerative colitis has continuous areas of chronic inflammation, and IBS shows no areas of chronic inflammation. A pattern of intermittent inflammation can therefore help in identifying Crohn's.

IBS is not an inflammatory bowel disease. It is characterized by a group of symptoms, including crampy abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. The symptoms can be confused with those of Crohn's and colitis because of their persistence, but IBS does not cause any chronic inflammatory changes. There are certain 'red flags' that differentiate a chronic disease like Crohn's from a group of symptoms like IBS.   In addition to abdominal pain and diarrhea, people with Crohn's disease often have blood in their stool and experience what we call extra-intestinal symptoms, such as weight loss, fever, joint pain, and anemia. These are usually not seen in IBS." Doctors don't know the exact cause of IBS, but it is believed to reflect oversensitivity of the digestive system.

My hubby has Crohn's and I have IBS.  What a pair we make. 

Isn't this a great forum ????

Good luck with your colonscopy.



Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 52
   Posted 3/18/2011 1:07 PM (GMT -7)   
I have both Crohn's and IBS. You really do need a colonoscopy since you have some blood. Hope you get some answers soon!

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2011
Total Posts : 55
   Posted 3/18/2011 2:04 PM (GMT -7)   
Thanks everyone! This is a great forum. I understand the difference between IBS and Crohn's in terms of Crohn's causing visible damage and inflammation where IBS is more a syndrome with symptoms like Crohn's, but no change to the intestines. I think my question is more whether bad IBS symptoms can mimic or seem like a mild case of Crohn's, symptomatically only. My intestinal symptoms just don't seem as bad as people with Crohn's. It's not consistently debilitating, only when I have an attack, which are several times a week. Also, since I have psoriatic arthritis, it's hard to tease apart what would be potentially Crohn's, and what's arthritis. For example, uveitis can be caused my PsA too, as obviously can joint pain. The mouth ulcers could be a result of me being gluten intolerant, though I wasn't eating gluten at the time. Regardless, I'm undergoing the testing. I just can't explain away the bleeding, since during the rectal exam there were no fissures or hemorrhoids. There wasn't tons of blood, but there were chunks and twice the entire stool was dark red. I know that can't be normal.
In terms of biopsy, my doc said they'd take a biopsy if anything during the colonoscopy looked abnormal. Then they'd biopsy that. Should I tell them just to take random biopsies, even if it looks normal?

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2010
Total Posts : 8384
   Posted 3/18/2011 4:24 PM (GMT -7)   
My first GI told me I had IBS.  I presented with bloody stool and lots of mucous, not to mention gas and abdominal pain, and for a year I followed his advice and thought I had IBS.  Then he did a sigmoidoscopy and found I had ulcerative proctitis.  It took another GI and two more years before I got to Crohn's.  That was all very frustrating and annoying.
I don't know anything about psoriatic arthritis, but I do believe that a colonoscopy will help answer a lot of questions.  It is true that sometimes the inflammation is hard to find - most colonoscopies won't go further than the terminal ileum.  But since colitis and Crohn's typically have inflammation in the colon and/or the TI, a colonoscopy is likely to find inflammation somewhere.
You can have "mild" Crohn's but it's still worth treating.  Getting the inflammation in your bowel resolved will undoubtedly relieve some of your other problems.
48 yrs old, IBD diagnosis in spring '01. Proctitis, gastritis, ileitis.
Currently taking Pentasa (3g/day), Sulfazine (1.5 g/day), Prevacid, folic acid, vit. D (2K iu), flax seed oil (2 tsp/day), mesalamine enema as needed.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 257
   Posted 3/18/2011 9:41 PM (GMT -7)   
My intestinal symptoms have rarely ever been as bad as what many experience on here. I spent years thinking the diagnosis was wrong. I felt pretty good for 7 years. I saw a GP and told her that I was pretty sure the diagnosis was wrong - even though I had started to have fevers, joint pain, fatigue. She told me that "many people with Crohns often believe they don't have it because symptoms come and go and vary in intensity". But I do. Your colonoscopy will give you answers...
diagnosed 2003
vit D, calcium, iron when my tummy can handle it, salmon oil, multi vitamin
stopped Pentasa
now off of prednisone
now off azathioprine after breaking out in a rash
now off 6mp after breaking out in another rash...
on Remicade since January 24, 2011

Mormor Vicky
Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 684
   Posted 3/19/2011 10:55 AM (GMT -7)   
It's best to know what is wrong. I had issues for 25+ years. Everytime I went to the doctor I was told it was IBS or lactose intolerence. My daughter was diagnosed 18 years ago at the age of 12. I still believe my doctors that it wasn't Crohn's. At the age of 47 I had to have an emergency resection because I had totally closed up from scar tissue.

Moral of the: Even mild disease will take a toll if not treated.
Started having issues with the Big "D" at age 19.  Doctor said Lactose Intolerance
Daugher diagnosed when she was 12 and I was 33.
My doctor said I had IBS.
8-2006    Emergency resection for fistula to bladder at the age of 47.
"Oh, it is Crohn's"     Dah!!!!
11-2006   Reaction to 6mp - isolation with bone marrow suppression and found out I had steriod induced diabetes.  Yeah!!!
4000mg of Pentasa only for Crohn's
Cymbalta, Metformin, Lipitor, Lisinopril
Update.  6-10-2010  Started remicade today.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2006
Total Posts : 2739
   Posted 3/19/2011 12:38 PM (GMT -7)   
The road to finding out what is really going on can be a long one for us, because Crohn's isn't always the most easy thing to diagnose. I was sick for over 10 years before I finally got diagnosed with Crohn's. During those 10 years I really didn't have much bleeding. about 6 years in I developed a nasty fistula and fissure that I had surgery for. That didn't even clue the doctors in. All my tests were coming back normal. Finally in 2006 I had an ulcer in my TI GUSH blood. I had to lose over half of all my blood in my body for them to FINALLY go in and say "Oh yeah it's Crohn's!" Frustrating!

Over all those years I was told I had IBS. By many many doctors. I don't like the diagnosis of IBS. I think it's a scape goat for "We really have no idea". I won't even accept it now if they tried to tell me it's not my Crohn's and it's IBS. Sorry but unless they can be 100% sure that there isn't SOME inflammation in that LONG digestive tract of mine, I'm not believing IBS. A colonoscopy only sees a part of where Crohn's can be hiding, and they tend to depend just on the results of that too much from what I've seen.

My best advice is to be your own advocate. Seek second opinions if your not happy with what a doctor has told you, or you aren't feeling any better. And have patients, because it can be a long road for some. I hope it isn't for you though, good luck!
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