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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Facts and Definition of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

  • The term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) covers a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed (red and swollen), probably as a result of an immune reaction of the body against its own intestinal tissue.
  • Two major types of IBD are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD).
  • Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon (large intestine).
  • Crohn's disease can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and/or the colon.
  • Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease usually run a waxing and waning course in the intensity and severity of illness. When there is severe inflammation, the disease is considered to be in an active stage, and the person experiences a flare-up of the condition. When the degree of inflammation is less (or absent), the person usually is without symptoms, and the disease is considered to be in remission.
  • Signs and symptoms of IBD include abdominal cramps and pain, bloody diarrhea, severe urgent need to have a bowel movement, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and anemia (due to blood loss).
  • Intestinal complications of IBD include bleeding ulcers, perforation of the bowel, obstruction of the bowel from scarring, fistulae (abnormal passage), perianal disease, toxic mega colon, and a higher risk of colon and small intestinal cancers. Other complications of IBD include arthritis, skin conditions, eye inflammation, liver and kidney disorders, and bone loss.
  • Tests used to diagnose IBD include stool examination, complete blood count, barium X-ray of the upper and/or lower GI tract, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and upper endoscopy.
  • Diet changes that may help with IBD include decreasing the amount of fiber or dairy products.
  • Diet has little or no influence on the inflammatory activity in ulcerative colitis but it may influence symptoms, and low-residue diets may decrease the frequency of bowel movements.
  • Diet can influence inflammatory activity in Crohn's disease. Nothing by mouth, a liquid diet, or a predigested formula may reduce inflammation.
  • Stress management and quitting smoking are also important in treating and managing IBD.
  • Medical treatment for IBD depends upon whether it is Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Medications may be prescribed. Ulcerative colitis can be cured with surgery but Crohn's disease cannot.
  • Medications used to treat IBD include amino-salicylates, antibiotics, corticosteroids, immune modifying agents, and biologic agents (anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) agents).
  • The prognosis for IBD varies. Most patients will have periods of remission interspersed with occasional flare-ups. A person with ulcerative colitis has a 50% probability of having another flare-up during the next 2 years. The course of Crohn's disease is much more variable than that of ulcerative colitis.

What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the intestines and are believed to be a result of a disordered immune system attacking itself. However, the cause for this immune reaction remains unknown. The two main types of IBD are ulcerative colitis (UC), which affects only the colon and rectum, and Crohn's disease (CD), which can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus.

IBD has a genetic component and tends to run in families. About 1.6 million Americans are affected, both males and females equally. Patients with IBD also have a higher risk of developing colon or rectal cancers.

Are IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) the Same Disease?

Both inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may have similar symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and urgent bowel movements, but IBD is not the same as IBS.

  • IBD is a group of separate diseases that includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and is a more severe condition. Inflammatory bowel disease can result in permanent damage to the intestines, intestinal bleeding, rectal bleeding, ulcers, or serious complications.
  • IBS is considered a functional gastrointestinal disorder because there is abnormal bowel function. In general, IBS has few associated complications other than the symptoms of the disorder itself.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/6/2017

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Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Frequent diarrhea with or without blood
  • Urgency to move bowels
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Lower abdominal cramps or discomfort
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • Weight


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