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 two distinct conditions, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Although both conditions involve inflammation and produce somewhat 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. Ulcerative colitis is confined to the superficial mucosal layer that lines the large intestine. Crohn’s disease affects the full thickness of intestine, resulting in significant scarring and fistula formation.

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.


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. Persisten... Read more about inflammatory bowel diseasesymptoms


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 re... Read more about inflammatory bowel diseasecauses


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.

Medications include steroids to reduce the inflammation. These are often combined with immunosuppressants, which are d... Read more about inflammatory bowel diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 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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