People sometimes mistake one medical disorder for another, and this is especially true for inflammatory bowel disease—IBD, ulcerative colitis—UC, Crohn's disease, and inflammatory bowel syndrome—IBS. The confusion arises because all of these conditions affect the gastrointestinal tract. However, in general, IBD is an umbrella term that includes both ulcerative collitis and Crohn’s disease, while IBS is a separate disorder. Although these conditions are similar in some ways and have some comparable symptoms, they're quite different and require different types of treatment.

UC and Crohn’s disease are the most common conditions associated with inflammatory bowel disease. UC is characterized by inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the colon. Symptoms of UC can include abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, exhaustion, pain in the joints, skin sores, and weight loss. Crohn’s disease has similar symptoms but the condition comes from a different area of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s disease stems from chronic irritation of the bowel. Those with Crohn’s disease may also experience additional complications including a blockage in the intestines, abscesses, and scar tissue. In some cases, it may be necessary to surgically remove a portion of the digestive tract that is has been damaged by Crohn’s disease.

IBS is considered a “functional gastrointestinal disorder” where there is some type of disruption in the functioning of the bowel. It's not considered a disease. Rather, it’s a syndrome that's characterized by a group of symptoms that can include constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bouts of both. Patients who suffer from IBS are also more likely to experience chronic pelvic pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Because IBS doesn’t cause the type of damaging inflammation found in IBD conditions, it's often considered a less serious disease because there’s usually no permanent harm to the intestines and rarely is there intestinal bleeding or other dangerous complications. A patient with IBS rarely needs to be hospitalized and treatment doesn’t usually require surgery or strong medication.

Even though IBS is less severe than IBD conditions, it can still negatively impact a person’s ability to live life normally. Symptoms of this syndrome can affect a patient’s social life, ability to travel, and ability to work. 

Simply being diagnosed with IBD or IBS will not automatically qualify you for Social Security disability benefits. To be eligible for benefits you must be able to show definitively that your medical condition prevents you from performing any meaningful work which you have ever performed before or which you could reasonably be expected to train for. Having an experienced disability attorney to advocate on your behalf can increase your chances of getting your claim approved. A good place to begin is to call us at Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your situation.



Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska