Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is marked by chronic inflammation of part or all of the digestive tract. There are two main types of IBD.

Crohn's disease is a severe, chronic form of IBD that causes inflammation of the large and/or small intestine. The most common affected area is the end of the small intestine (ileum).

Ulcerative colitis is a severe, chronic form of IBD that causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum.

Symptoms

The symptoms range from mild to severe and may occur constantly or flare up. IBD is a lifelong illness without a cure, but there are treatments that can help manage symptoms.

Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Bloody stool
  • Inflammation of the rectum
  • Draining around the rectum
  • Gas, feeling bloated
  • Abdominal sounds (e.g., gurgling)
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Joint pain 

Causes 

The exact cause of IBD is unknown, but some believe the condition may result from:

  • A compromised immune system or an infection that affects your immune system
  • A reaction to bacteria or a virus that damages the colon and rectum
  • A family history of IBD
  • Being of northern European or Jewish descent may be a risk factor for certain types of IBD.

Diagnosis 

A physical exam is needed to diagnose IBD. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Images of your intestines may be taken to look for swelling, irritation or other conditions. Other diagnostic tests and procedures may include:

  • Upper GI endoscopy (Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube down your throat to view the upper digestive tract).
  • Colonoscopy (Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope into the anus to view the rectum and colon).
  • Barium enema (Used in conjunction with an enema, a liquid injected into the rectum, an X-ray detects abnormalities in the colon).
  • X-ray
  • Capsule endoscopy (A swallowable, pill-shaped wireless camera captures images of the digestive tract).
  • Blood tests
  • Stool culture

Treatments  

Consult with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you. Options may include a combination of lifestyle changes and/or medications.

Simple dietary and lifestyle modifications may help decrease symptoms.

  • Avoid a high-fat diet
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Reduce your dairy and fiber intake
  • Get plenty of rest 
  • Minimize stress

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

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

Surgery is not helpful for all types of IBD. If you have severe ulcerative colitis, the colon may be surgically removed.