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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease, also known as IBD, is a group of chronic or recurring disorders that cause the digestive tract to become inflamed. The most common forms of IBD include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD is considered to be an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks various parts of the digestive tract.

While IBD may occur at any point in time, it usually appears in patients between the ages of 15 and 30 years old. It has been estimated that more than one million people in the United States are affected with IBD.

Risk Factors for IBD

Factors that appear to increase the risk of developing IBD include the following:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Demographics
  • Diet

Types of IBD

The most common forms of IBD include ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. The similarities between the two disorders can sometimes make it difficult to diagnose which form of IBD a patient may have. The main difference is the part of the digestive tract each disorder affects.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis affects the top layers of the large intestine and the colon. Ulcerative colitis causes the lining of the intestine to become inflamed and develop ulcers. When ulcerative colitis occurs in the rectal area, it can lead to severe diarrhea.

Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease most often affects the last part of the small intestine and parts of the large intestine, but can occur anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Instead of affecting the top layers intestinal walls as seen with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease affects all layers of the intestinal wall.

Symptoms of IBD

Symptoms of IBD may vary depending on the diagnosed condition. Symptoms that are shared between ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease may include the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Anemia
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis of IBD

After conducting a thorough physical and medical examination, the following diagnostic tests may be conducted:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool analysis
  • Colonoscopy
  • Endoscopy
  • Barium X-ray
  • Biopsy

Treatment of IBD

IBD affects each patient differently and treatment options will vary. Many cases of IBD can be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressive medication that prevents the immune system from attacking the body. Modifications made to diet may help to reduce some of the symptoms of IBD and replace those nutrients that have been lost. Managing stress and resting have been shown to be helpful. Surgery, for more severe cases of IBD, may be required but will depend on the individual condition of the patient.

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