What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) occurs when inflammation in the small intestine and colon produces redness, bleeding and pus, which, in turn, cause such symptoms as diarrhea. Inflammation impairs the colon’s ability to hold its contents, resulting in frequent elimination. IBD includes the conditions ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Although both conditions involve inflammation and produce similar symptoms, in Crohn’s disease, the inflammation can extend to other organs in the digestive tract, including the stomach and esophagus, while ulcerative colitis specifically affects the colon (large intestine).

IBD can affect one side of your colon or your entire colon. Left-side colon involvement is called limited, or distal, colitis. Ulcerative proctitis describes inflammation occurring in the lower part of the colon and rectum.

Both forms of IBD affect young adults, with disease onset usually occurring between ages 15 and 30 years, and less commonly between 50 and 70 years of age for ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease is diagnosed most commonly in people from most commonly 20 to 30 years of age. IBD can run in families, with at least 20% of people affected having a family member with the condition. The prevalence of ulcerative colitis is higher in Caucasians and people with Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry (Source: NDDIC).

Inflammatory bowel disease itself is not an emergency situation, but prolonged diarrhea, a common symptom, can result in serious dehydration or complications. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, inability to pass gas or stool, and vomiting or vomiting blood.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for inflammatory bowel disease, but mild symptoms recur or persist.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease?

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, primarily affect the digestive tract and include appetite loss, diarrhea, weight loss, rectal bleeding, nausea, and abdominal cramping. Persistent diarrhea can cause malnutrition, weakness, and electrolyte imbalances; younger individuals may be small or experience delayed growth.... Read more about inflammatory bowel diseasesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes inflammatory bowel disease?

The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not known. It is known to run in families and is more prevalent in certain groups, such as people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. It may have an autoimmune component, in which the immune system, which normally protects us from harmful invaders, interprets foods and other substances as “foreign” and launches an immune response. This reaction results in the release of antibodies and white blood cells into the intestines, which leads to inflammatory symptoms and ulcerations. It is not known why the immune system perceives food as an invader, but high levels... Read more about inflammatory bowel diseasecauses

TREATMENTS

How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?

Currently, there is no cure for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The goal of treatment is to ease the symptoms, remedy the nutritional deficiencies, and reduce the number of recurrences, or flare-ups. Medication and surgery are used to manage the symptoms of IBD.... Read more about inflammatory bowel diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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