Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease – Two Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)

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Ulcerative colitis is a chronic bowel inflammation in the area of the large intestine. It consists of permanent inflammation of the upper layer of the intestinal mucous membrane.

Crohn's disease typically affects the small intestine, but other sections of the intestine may also be affected. All layers of the intestine wall are affected by the inflammation.

In both diseases, symptom-free phases alternate with periods when there are episodes of high-intensity pain, watery, bloody diarrhoea, weakness, and weight loss. Sometimes, a hospital stay is necessary.

The causes and triggers of the two disorders are not known in detail. Suspected risk factors are found only in a part of the persons who are ill:
  • Family or genetic predisposition

  • Certain environmental factors (e.g. food intolerance or smoking)

  • Generally, it can be said that anything that does not do the body good weakens the immune system. This may ultimately be a contributing factor to the onset of these diseases, which are characterised by an exaggerated immune response of the intestine.

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In Switzerland, about 16,000 people are affected by these two chronic intestinal diseases, which often begin in young adulthood and cannot be cured.

The therapeutic scheme of ulcerative colitis differs from that of Crohn's disease. Your doctor can prescribe treatment for acute inflammatory episodes or low-dose long-term therapy if the symptoms ease up. With long-term treatment, you should be able to avoid complications and delay operations.

To relieve the symptoms of acute phases, various types of medication are available that can inhibit the inflammation. The goal is to relieve the affected person as quickly as possible from the excruciating pain, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.

These are the key aspects of therapy:

  • Prescription of anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications (inflammation inhibitors, glucocorticoids, immunosuppressant medication, biologics, and possibly antibiotics) in gradual phases.

  • Nutrient solutions are sometimes required in acute stages when the intestine is unable to absorb important nutrients because of the disease.

  • Nutrition counselling, in case of underweight or as a support in order to identify high-risk foods that trigger disease episodes and relapses

  • Physical rest

  • If necessary, imaging examinations (e.g. ultrasound, MRI or CT, in the context of colonoscopy) or biopsies

  • As part of your treatment, consider generics instead of original medication. You can also use biosimilars, which are highly similar to biologics (biologically manufactured medication). They are increasingly being used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Ask your doctor – especially when the doctor writes a new prescription for a medication.

Your guides:

Further information:

Generic and biosimilair medicine: search function
(available in German, French and Italian)

Medication brochure 
to print out (PDF)
(available in German and French)
Depending on the situation, a surgical intervention may also be necessary. This is inevitable when fistulas (destruction of the adjacent tissue), abscesses (collections of pus), or stenoses (abnormal constrictions) have formed in the inflammatory regions; at this point, it is important to open or remove these regions.

Has a surgical intervention been planned for you?

CONCORDIA has commissioned the institute B,B,S. Economic Consultants in Basel to evaluate the treatments and operations of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases in all Swiss acute care hospitals – independently, neutrally, and according to statistical quality criteria.

The quality of inpatient treatment was assessed, along with the length of stay and the hospital costs.
  • During a personal conversation, we will show you, on the basis of the results, which hospitals throughout Switzerland have excelled over the years in the treatments and operations of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases in terms of quality and efficiency.

  • Use our consulting offer to find out which hospital is most suitable for your treatment.

  • Naturally, you still have the choice of when and where you would like to be treated, in line with your basic and supplementary insurances.

For the surgical interventions and treatments of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, we recommend a second medical opinion. If you are covered by a hospital insurance at CONCORDIA, a second medical opinion is free of charge if you apply for it via the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital (LUKS).

Personal consultation:
+41 41 228 09 94

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 Advice on a second opinion

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Exactly what form aftercare will take for chronic inflammatory bowel diseases depends on the treatment, the prognosis and your state of health.

Physical recovery is in the foreground, but the psychological stress must be processed. It usually takes a while for nutrition and digestion to return to normal and for new medication adjustments to be found.

Further key aspects of aftercare:

  • A nutritional plan helps to reduce, or at least postpone, the flare-ups, and to build up physical reserves

  • Good self-observation and regular medical check-ups

  • Medication to build a healthy intestinal flora

  • Psychotherapy or talk therapy, if you are severely affected by the chronic disease, have withdrawn socially, or are prone to depression

  • Exchange of ideas in an association for persons affected (self-help group)

  • Living with a chronic illness requires very good self-management in order to be able to successfully master the various challenges in everyday life. concordiaCoach can support you in finding good solutions.

  • Get vaccinated against influenza in good time before the flu season. The best time is between mid-October and mid-November.

Your guides:

Further information:

Generic and biosimilair medicine: search function
(available in German, French and Italian)

Medication brochure 
to print out (PDF)
(available in German and French)

Assessment questionnaire
Individual health situation

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health:
Seasonal flu vaccination

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Call us on +41 41 228 09 94. Or write your message to healthcompass@concordia.ch.

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