Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) 

May 3, 2022

What is IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a general term to describe inflammation in your digestive tract. IBD can be categorized into two similar but distinct diseases:

  • Crohn’s Disease– Crohn’s Disease is a part of a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes uncomfortable inflammation of your digestive tract, namely your colon. Crohn’s Disease is different from the other form of IBD known as ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s Disease is typically found at the end of the small intestine, the beginning of the colon, and may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon.

Also, Crohn’s Disease can affect the entirety of the bowel wall, while ulcerative colitis only involves the inner lining of the colon.

  • Ulcerative Colitis- Ulcerative colitis also manifests itself through inflammation of the colon but is typically accompanied by ulcers. As mentioned above Ulcerative Colitis exclusively affects the colon and affects the lining of the colon.

What Causes IBD?

The cause of inflammatory bowel disease is typically characterized as an immune system malfunction. When your body activates your immune system to fight a virus or bacteria an abnormal immune response can attack the cells in the digestive system as well. As a result, parts of the small intestine and colon become inflamed. IBD can also be passed down from parent to child.

Risk Factors of IBD include:

  • Age – most people diagnosed with IBD are below the age of 30
  • Race or ethnicity- IBD is most common in Caucasians, and people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • Family history- IBD is linked to being passed down genetically
  • Geography- living in an industrialized country, and/or northern climates
  • Smoking
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Medications (NSAIDs) – such as ibuprofen

What are the Symptoms of IBD?

Symptoms of IBD will vary depending on the disease and the severity. The common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include:

You should contact your nearest gastroenterologist if you experience any persistent change in bowel habits, or have any combination of the above symptoms that worry you.

How is IBD Diagnosed?

IBD can be diagnosed through different techniques, decided upon by your doctor depending on your symptoms.

A colonoscopy or endoscopy is commonly used to detect IBD. Sometimes, other imaging procedures will be done, such as X-ray, CT, or MRI.

What are the Treatments for IBD?

The primary goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation in your digestive tract in order to eliminate or reduce symptoms. Treatment could eventually lead to long-term remission of IBD. Treatments for IBD include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • Iron supplements
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • Immune system suppressors
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Surgery
  • Enteral nutrition (liquid supplements)

Is IBD Fatal?

Inflammatory bowel disease is not a fatal disease. However, if left unmanaged and untreated, over time, a person with IBD can develop complications that can be fatal. Additionally, leaving IBD untreated can lead to increased risk of colon cancer. There are several clinical trials to help manage the symptoms and improve the lives of those living with IBD.