The first week of December is Crohns and Colitis Awareness Week. Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are two types of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. IBD is very different from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, even though they sound similar.
What is IBD?
Inflammatory bowel diseases are chronic diseases affecting the digestive system—they are incurable autoimmune diseases where the body attacks the tissues of the digestive system, resulting in symptoms that vary in severity depending on the person.  Both Crohn’s and Colitis are most often diagnosed before age 30, but there is also another rise in diagnoses of these diseases after age 60.  IBD can be diagnosed at any age from 0 to 90 and older. 
What are the symptoms of IBD?
IBD symptoms will vary from person to person. Symptoms commonly caused by IBD include abdominal pain, frequent or persistent diarrhea, weight loss, fever and bleeding from the rectum. 
Sometimes, IBD can experience problems with joints, bones, skin, eyes, kidneys and liver. 
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) system, which begins at the mouth and also includes the esophagus and stomach—most commonly it affects the end of the small intestine and beginning of the large intestine, or the colon. [1.1] Crohn’s disease can affect the entire thickness of the wall of the intestine, and it can “skip” segments, leaving healthy tissue between areas of diseased GI tissue. [1.1] There are also different types of Crohn’s disease based on the part or parts of the GI system affected. [1.2]
Crohn’s disease is often genetic [1.1]. It is not certain whether Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease or not, but it is suggested Crohn’s disease may increase risk of other autoimmune diseases. 
What is Ulcerative Colitis
Sometimes just called colitis, as opposed to Crohn’s, this condition only affects the large intestine. [1.1] Also converse to Crohn’s, only the innermost layer or lining of the colon. [1.1] In Ulcerative Colitis, as the name would suggest, ulcers and inflammation develop in the colon causing open sores in the lining of the colon. [1.3] Inflammation and ulceration are the causes of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, including abdominal pain or discomfort and frequent need to empty the colon to relieve discomfort. [1.3] Colitis is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body mistakenly attacks the lining of the colon and sometimes even food, as a dangerous intruder. 
Treating IBD can include biologic therapies (medicine) and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. [1.4] Surgery may also be required to remove or repair diseased sections of the gastrointestinal system. [1.4] In some cases, significant parts of the colon may need to be removed, resulting in need for an ostomy pouch system—while using an ostomy pouch system can seem daunting or unpleasant, often those who require ostomies report experiencing greater quality of life following surgery. Dietary changes may also help with management in some cases. [1.4]
Medical ID jewelry for IBD can be an important part of staying healthy, alerting medical staff to your needs and providing appropriate accommodation if you are hospitalized unexpectedly, whether IBD related or not.
To learn more about living with IBD, check out the #myIBD and #IBDvisible hashtags on Twitter.