What is Inflammatory bowel disease?
An inflammatory bowel disease is a group of conditions that cause inflammation of the digestive tract (redness, swelling, and sometimes painful).
Your digestive system runs from your mouth to your anus. If your digestive system is healthy, food will move smoothly through your digestive system and out of your body. Your body absorbs essential nutrients from food. The rest passes through your body and is excreted in the form of urine (pee) or stool (poop).
If you have IBD, a part of your digestive system is inflamed. Over time, the inflammation can cause severe pain, diarrhea, and sometimes bloody stools. IBD symptoms occur in episodes or flare-ups. Because there is inflammation in your digestive system due to IBD, your body cannot absorb all the nutrients it needs. It can lead to other health problems like malnutrition, other IBD symptoms, or anemia.
Types of Inflammatory bowel disease
The two main types of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Crohn’s disease: It affects any part of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus. The inflammation in Crohn’s disease often occurs in patches in the digestive organs, such as the stomach or intestines. With Crohn’s disease, there are patches of normal tissue or damage next to the inflamed area.
Ulcerative colitis: It affects the large intestine and rectum. The disease causes inflammation and small open sores or ulcers on the surface of the lining of the large intestine or rectum. Ulcers produce bleeding and pus. Ulcerative colitis is characterized by persistent damage rather than damaged patches throughout the large intestine and rectum.
Causes of Inflammatory bowel disease
It is not known exactly what causes IBD. Currently, many factors are expected to play a role. These could include:
- The genes you were born with
- An abnormal reaction of the digestive system to bacteria in the intestine.
- Unknown triggers of viruses, bacteria, food, stress, or anything in the environment
Risk factors for Inflammatory bowel disease
Risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease include:
Smoking: Smoking is one of the main risk factors for the development of Crohn’s disease.
Age: IBD can occur at any age, but in most cases, it begins before the age of 35.
Family history: People who have parents, siblings, or children with IBD have a much higher risk of developing it.
Geographic area: People living in urban areas and industrialized countries are at risk of developing IBD.
Gender: In general, IBD affects both sexes equally. Ulcerative colitis is more common in men, but Crohn’s disease is more common in women.
Symptoms of Inflammatory bowel disease
The symptoms of IBD include:
- Pain, cramps, or swelling in the tummy
- Recurring or bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Extreme tiredness
Not everyone has all of these symptoms, and some may have additional symptoms such as high fever, malaise (vomiting), and anemia.
Arthritis, painful red eyes (uveitis), painful red skin tumors (erythema nodosum), and jaundice (primary sclerosing cholangitis) are less associated with IBD.
Symptoms of IBD can come and go. When symptoms are severe (inflammation), there may be a long period of time when symptoms are little or no symptoms (remission).
Diagnosis of Inflammatory bowel disease
The diagnosis of IBD can be suspected based on medical history, but the final decision will depend on the results of the diagnostic tests. Tests to diagnose IBD include::
- CT Enterography: An exam that allows the doctor to perform an X-ray examination of the entire abdomen. Findings of the active disease include thickened bowel wall, inflamed bowel, narrowed areas, and fistulas.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: An exam that provides a view of the lower two feet of the colon. The doctor inserts a thin, flexible, light tube through the rectum and examines this section of the colon for inflammation, ulcers, or other problems.
- Colonoscopy: The doctor inserted a thin, comfortable, lighted tube that was too long to see the entire colon with the camera attached. The doctor may also take tissue samples from inside the colon that can be tested in the laboratory for clumps of inflamed cells called granulomas. These groups are present in Crohn’s disease but not in ulcerative colitis, so this is a very useful test to differentiate the two diseases.
Treatment for Inflammatory bowel disease
The goal of treatment is to get rid of the inflammation that is causing your symptoms. A variety of medications can help reduce inflammation. Speak to your doctor about anti-inflammatory drugs and drugs that contain the immune system. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also recommend it:
- Pain reliever
- Vitamin supplements
In severe cases of inflammatory bowel disease, you may need to go to the hospital for intravenous (IV) fluids or surgery.
During your treatment, you will most likely be treated by a team of doctors. This team may include your family doctor, gastroenterologist (and specialist in the stomach and intestinal disorders), and possibly your surgeon.
The exact cause of IBD is not yet clear. Because of this, it is difficult to know what is the best way to prevent it.
The genetic factors associated with IBD are beyond individual control. However, a person can reduce their risk by following a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly.
Complications of IBD include:
- Malnutrition with following weight loss
- Colon cancer
- Fistulas, or ulcers that go into the bowel wall, forming a hole between different parts of the digestive tract
- Intestinal rupture, or perforation
- Bowel obstruction
Departments to consult for this condition
- Department of Gastroenterology