What is inflammatory bowel disease?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term that describes two conditions: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
These are long-term conditions that involve inflammation of the gut.
Ulcerative colitis only affects the colon (large intestine). Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the bottom (anus).
People of any age can get IBD, but it’s usually diagnosed between 15 and 40.
What are the symptoms of IBD?
- Abdominal pain and cramps, bloody diarrhea
- weight loss
Symptoms of IBD vary depending on where the inflammation is in the gut and the severity. IBD has flare-ups (when the symptoms are severe) and remission (when there are no symptoms). Not everyone has all these symptoms; others may have different symptoms, including red eyes, joint swelling, and pain.
What are the possible causes of IBD?
It’s unclear what causes IBD, but it’s thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including Genetic predisposition or a problem with your immune system.
How is IBD diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have IBD, your doctor will run some tests to confirm the diagnosis.
These tests include:
What is the treatment of IBD?
- Blood markers of inflammation
- Stool markers of inflammation
- Other stool studies to check for infections such as bacterial, viral, or parasitic.
- Colonoscopy to visualize the extent of the inflammation and take samples for evaluation under the microscope.
- Imaging such as computed tomography (CT) enterography, magnetic resonance (MR) enterography, capsule endoscopy, or gastrointestinal ultrasound
There’s currently no complete cure for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
The aim of the treatment is to relieve the symptoms and prevent them from recurring, and that may include specific diets, lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.
Your doctor will prescribe medications to treat your condition, which may include:
- Aminosalicylates or mesalazine, which can reduce inflammation in the gut.
- immunosuppressants such as steroids or azathioprine to reduce the activity of the immune system
- Biological medicines– antibody-based treatments given by injection that target a specific part of the immune system
Some patients have severe symptoms that do not improve with medications. In these cases, surgery may be necessary to remove an inflamed section of the large bowel.
People with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease are also at increased risk of getting bowel cancer. Your doctor will recommend regular bowel check-ups (colonoscopy) to check for cancer.