Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)





Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine. The major types of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

The main difference between Crohn's disease and UC is the location and nature of the inflammatory changes. Crohn's can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from mouth to anus, although a majority of the cases start in the terminal ileum (a portion of the small intestine). Ulcerative colitis, in contrast, is restricted to the colon and the rectum.

Accounting for far fewer cases are other forms of non IBD colitis, which represent separate types of colitis:

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Research isn't conclusive on the causes inflammatory bowel disease, but experts believe that many factors might be involved, including the environment, diet, and genetics.

Current evidence suggests that in people with IBD, a genetic defect affects how the immune system works and how inflammation is triggered in response to an offending agent, like bacteria, a virus, or a protein in food. The evidence also indicates that smoking can enhance the likelihood of developing Crohn's disease.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

The most common symptoms of both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are diarrhea and abdominal pain. Diarrhea can range from mild to severe (as many as 20 or more trips to the bathroom a day). If the diarrhea is extreme, it can lead to dehydration, rapid heartbeat, and a drop in blood pressure. And continued loss of small amounts of blood in the stool can lead to anemia.

At times, those with IBD may also be constipated. With Crohn's disease, this can happen as a result of a partial obstruction (called stricture) in the intestines. In ulcerative colitis, constipation may be a symptom of inflammation of the rectum (known as proctitis).

The loss of fluid and nutrients from diarrhea and chronic inflammation of the bowel can also cause fever, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Pain is usually from the abdominal cramping, which is caused by irritation of the nerves and muscles that control intestinal contractions.

And IBD can cause other health problems that occur outside the digestive system. Although experts don't understand why, some people with IBD can show signs of inflammation elsewhere in the body, including the joints, eyes, skin, and liver. Skin tags that look like hemorrhoids or abscesses may also develop around the anus.

Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease can be hard to diagnose because there may be no symptoms, even if the bowel has been damaged over many years. And IBD symptoms often resemble those of other conditions, which may make it difficult for your physician to diagnose.

If you begin to lose weight quickly, or have repeated bouts of diarrhea, or have abdominal cramping, IBD may be the cause. Call your board certified physician if you notice any of these symptoms to ensure that you get proper evaluation and treatment.

If IBD is suspected, your physician might order blood tests to look for signs of the inflammation that often accompanies IBD, and to check for anemia and for other causes of symptoms, like infection. A stool test might also be done to check for the presence of blood.

Your physician might do a high definition colonoscopy, which will let the physician see inflammation, bleeding, or ulcers on the wall of the colon. This can be performed in our Premier Endoscopy Center located on the second floor of our offices.

The physician also might order an upper endoscopy to check the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine for inflammation, bleeding, or ulcers. During either of these exams, the doctor might do a biopsy, taking a small sample of tissue from the intestinal tract lining to be viewed under a microscope or sent to a laboratory for testing.

The doctor also might order a barium study of the intestines. You will be asked to drink a thick white solution (barium), which shows up white on an X-ray film. This lets the doctor see parts of the intestines not reachable by an endoscope. Another way to view the intestines is via an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a special radiology test that involves no radiation.

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