Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Definition & Symptoms

Inflammatory bowel disease is a disease which is characterized by inflammation along the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

Patients with Crohn’s disease may have inflammation anywhere along the GI tract from the mouth to the anus. Inflammatory lesions in Crohn’s disease can extend deeper into the layer of the intestine leading to the development of complications such as strictures, abscesses and fistulas. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include fatigue, fever, weight loss, abdominal pain, and multiple loose, often bloody bowel movements per day. Patients with Crohn’s may also develop fissures and fistulas, perforation, and abscesses of the bowel and anorectal area.

Ulcerative colitis typically only affects the large intestine. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis also include fatigue, abdominal pain, and loose bloody bowel movements up to 10 times per day. Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease may range from mild to severe.

Diagnostics

Stools tests, blood tests, radiologic imaging with a CT or MRI, upper endoscopy and a colonoscopy can help diagnose inflammatory bowel disease. Often times, symptoms can be so severe as to require hospitalization and supportive care with IV fluids, blood transfusions, and diagnostic and therapeutic imaging and endoscopic procedures. Because inflammatory bowel disease is a lifelong condition, frequent colonoscopic surveillance is needed because inflammatory bowel disease causes a slightly increased risk of developing colon cancer.

Treatment

 Treatment for these diseases can be complex as the disease course is often complicated by flares interrupting periods of remission. Treatment options range from oral tablets, rectal suppositories, to IV infusions with drugs that suppress the over-active immune system that is believed to be responsible for the disease. In severe cases, surgery may be needed for repair or removal of parts of the diseased bowel. More information can be found at: The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation: http://www.ccfa.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/

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