Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

(IBD; Regional Enteritis; Ileitis; Granulomatous Ileocolitis; Ulcerative Colitis)

by Swedish Staff and Contributors

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Defined
What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Risk Factors

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) depend on the type of IBD you have. Common symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal cramping and pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Ulcers in your intestines
  • Inflammation of your rectum
  • Draining around your rectum
  • Feeling full or bloated
  • Gas
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Abdominal sounds (i.e., gurgling)
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Pain in your joints

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Defined

IBD is swelling and irritation of your intestines. A range of symptoms can be caused by IBD including abdominal discomfort and problems breaking down food. There are two types of IBD:

  • Crohn's disease - a severe, chronic form of IBD that causes inflammation, ulcers and bleeding in the digestive tract (usually affecting the end portion of the small intestine called the ileum)
  • Ulcerative colitis - a severe, chronic form of IBD that causes inflammation, ulcers and bleeding in the lining or your colon and rectum

The symptoms of IBD may be constant or occur during flare-ups. This is a lifelong illness and there is no cure for IBD, but there are treatments that can help control symptoms.

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What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease

It’s not known what causes IBD, but some believe the condition may be the result of:

  • A family history of IBD (inherited genetics)
  • A reaction to bacteria or a virus that damages your colon and rectum
  • A compromised immune system or an infection that affects your immune system

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A physical exam is needed to diagnose IBD. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and any symptoms you may be experiencing. Images of your intestines may be needed to look for swelling, irritation or other conditions. These Images may be taken with:

  • Upper GI endoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Barium enema
  • X-ray
  • Capsule endoscopy

Your doctor may also look for signs of infection using:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool culture


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Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options may include:

Lifestyle Changes

Simple dietary changes may help reduce IBD symptoms. In general, eat a diet that is:

  • Low in fat
  • Rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Consider reducing your intake of dairy products and fiber

Overall wellness may also play a role in reducing IBD flare-ups. Get plenty of rest and find ways to reduce stress.


Most medications for IBD focus on reducing intestinal swelling and irritation. These include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immune system suppressors
  • Antibiotics to kill germs in your intestinal tract
  • Anti-diarrhea medications
  • Laxatives
  • Pain relievers


Surgery is not helpful for all types of IBD. For people with very severe ulcerative colitis, a surgery to remove the colon may be done.

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Risk Factors    

The following risk factors increase your chance of developing IBD:

  • A family history of IBD
  • Being Caucasian or of northern European descent
  • Being of Jewish descent (increases the risk of certain types of IBD)
  • Having problems with your immune system

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There are no known prevention steps since the cause of IBD is not clear.

This content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Swedish.

Diagnosis and Treatment

For more information:



Swedish Digestive Health Network