Inflammatory Bowel Disease

 

Inflammatory bowel disease includes the following gastrointestinal diseases:

  • Crohn's Disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

About Crohn's Disease

Crohn's Disease is a chronic disease of unknown origin, which often causes several flare-ups within the intestines several times over a lifetime. Crohn's Disease usually involves the lower part of the small bowel, known as the ileum. In some cases of Crohn's, both the small and large intestine are affected. The inflammation can affect any part of the digestive tract.

Crohn's Disease Symptoms

A patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Changes in bowel habits (usually diarrhea, but occasionally constipation)
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fissures, abscesses and fistulas of the anorectum
  • Occasionally other organs are involved, such as the skin, joints, liver and eyes

Crohn's Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Crohn's disease requires the following:

  • A complete medical history and a thorough physical examination.
  • Your surgeon may order a series of tests that will help to confirm a diagnosis of Crohn's disease. These may include:
    • Blood tests
    • Stool cultures
    • Upper endoscopy. In this test, the patient is usually given a mild sedative so s/he is sleeping. Using an endoscope, a flexible tube with a camera and light on the tip, your doctor can examine the esophagus, stomach and upper gastrointestinal tract.
    • Upper GI series with small bowel follow-through. In this test, the patient swallows chalky liquid called barium. An X-ray is taken at intervals to show outlines of different parts of the bowel. If any abnormality is identified, your doctor may order further tests
    • Colonoscopy. This test is similar to an upper endoscopy, except that the anus, rectum and colon are examined using a colonoscope, a flexible tube with a camera and light at the tip. Your doctor can examine the lining of the colon carefully, looking for signs of disease and sometimes taking biopsies.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment

Treatment for Crohn's Disease can be managed through medications and/or surgery. Medications are used to counter symptoms of Crohn's Disease. Surgery is reserved for complications such as obstruction or fistula formation with infection. Generally, only involved portions of the bowels are operated on when all other treatment methods fail.

No medical cure exists. Patients with Crohn's Disease have a higher risk of cancer, and must have routine check-ups for the rest of their lives.

See our list of Surgical Procedures & Techniques.

About Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the inner lining of the rectum and large intestine. Inflammation may begin in the rectum and lower intestine often progresses to involve the entire colon.

Symptoms

A patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Sometimes there is a joint, skin or liver disease associated.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis requires the following:

  • A complete medical history and a thorough physical examination.
  • Your doctor may order a series of tests that will help to confirm a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. These may include:
    • Blood tests
    • Colonoscopy. A flexible tube with a camera and light attached at the tip is gently advanced through the anus, rectum and colon to view the lining of the colorectum and take appropriate biopsies. Your doctor can examine the inside of the colon carefully, looking for signs of disease.
    • Upper endoscopy or upper GI x- rays are sometimes employed to help rule out Crohn's disease.

Treatment

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis are managed through medications as long as there is a favorable response. Patients with ulcerative colitis have a higher risk of cancer and must have regular check-ups for the rest of their lives.

Surgery


Surgery is reserved for patients with disabling symptoms, which are not controlled by medications or those with an increased cancer risk. Cancer risk is determined by finding dysplasia (pre-cancer) in biopsies taken during check-ups by colonoscopy.

When surgery for ulcerative colitis is necessary the entire colon and rectum are removed so there can no incidence of colitis.

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