There are a number of risk factors associated with the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These include being younger in age, being Caucasian or of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, smoking cigarettes, stress, poor diet, and living in an industrialized country. But could sexual orientation also increase the risk?
According to Drug Topics, research suggests that it can; a study published in Gut suggests that homosexual males engaging in high-risk sexual activity are over two times more likely to develop IBD than heterosexual males engaging in high-risk sexual activity. In this context, high-risk sexual activity encompasses multiple sexual partners and sexual activity without protection (condoms, etc.).
To begin, the research team sourced self-reported data from 58 healthcare organizations over a 20-year period. After evaluating the data, the researchers found that:
- High-risk same-sex activity was associated with perianal abscesses, rectal abscesses, and stricturing disease of the colon or small intestine.
- In homosexual males with severe ulcerative colitis (UC), there was a higher risk of having to have a partial colectomy to manage the condition.
- 0.49% of heterosexual males had Crohn’s disease, compared to 0.8% of homosexual males.
- 0.52% of heterosexual males had ulcerative colitis, compared to 1.26% of homosexual males.
While these findings are interesting, more research is needed to better understand these findings and determine whether an actual correlation exists. However, the research team believes that studying IBD in underrepresented patients could provide a more nuanced understanding of IBD development, as well as lead to better therapeutic interventions.
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?
Inflammatory bowel disease comprises a group of conditions (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease) that are characterized by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. The exact cause is unknown, though many believe its root cause could be a blend of immune dysfunction and environmental triggers. IBD is variable in symptoms and severity. However, if you have IBD, it is important to manage your condition, as certain complications can be life-threatening. Symptoms related to IBD can include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Bloody or pus-filled stool
- Appetite loss
- Unintentional weight loss
- Joint pain
- Excessive gas
This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms.
Treatment of IBD focuses on reducing inflammation and managing symptoms. Potential therapeutic options include immune suppressing drugs, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory treatment, anti-diarrheal medication, pain relievers, vitamin D, and calcium and iron supplementation.