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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The two types of IBD conditions are Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. 

  • Ulcerative colitis is characterized by ulcers (sores) in the tissue lining the colon or the rectum, leading to inflammation.
  • Crohn’s disease involves inflammation throughout the digestive tract.

Many people constantly wonder: is inflammatory bowel disease the same as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)?

  • IBD is a chronic inflammation of the intestines, classified as a disease that can be harmful to the intestines. It can be detected on a colonoscopy and other diagnostic tests and may increase the risk of colon cancer. 
  • IBS is non-inflammatory and indicates a disturbance in bowel function that can cause stomach pain and discomfort. However, it is not seen on a colonoscopy or other diagnostic tests. 

What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

While the exact cause of IBD is still being studied, IBD is suspected to be caused by an abnormal immune response, in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the digestive tract. IBD can be hereditary.

Inflammatory bowel disease risk factors may include:

  • Age–Most IBD cases are diagnosed before age 30, but IBD can occur at any age.
  • Family history–Having a close relative with IBD increases your risk of developing IBD.
  • Race/ethnicity–While Whites have the highest risk of IBD, the disease can still occur in any race.
  • Smoking–Smoking can harm your digestive tract and increases your risk of developing Crohn’s disease.
  • NSAIDs–Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Aleve, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can increase your risk of developing IBD or worsen symptoms of IBD.

What are the Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease symptoms include:

  • Bloody diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Constipation
  • Severe cramping and abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

How Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease Diagnosed?

Your GI doctor will first ask you about your symptoms. If they suspect IBD, they can order a colonoscopy or endoscopy to look into your digestive tract and determine if there is inflammation. A biopsy, or a small tissue sample, can be taken to confirm the diagnosis. 

Blood tests or stool sample tests can rule out other conditions. 

What is the Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

While there is no cure for IBD, inflammatory bowel disease treatment is available to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms. This can include anti-inflammatory medication, immune-suppressing drugs, or antibiotics.

Lifestyle changes, involving developing a balanced diet to avoid specific trigger foods (such as high-fat or high-fiber foods, spicy foods, etc) can reduce discomfort. It is also advisable to reduce stress to avoid worsening symptoms. 

If severe enough, surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged parts of the GI tract. 

Find more to read on this topic on our Blog.

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