Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
What is inflammatory bowel disease?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term for a group of conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These diseases are all characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. Treatment is needed to manage this disorder as complications have the potential to be life threatening.
What are the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease?
The location and severity of inflammation impact the symptoms for this disease, causing them to vary from patient to patient. Many people experience periods of active symptoms followed by periods of remission. Diarrhea, fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, cramping, blood in one’s stool, loss of appetite, and unintentional weight loss are all possible symptoms of IBD.
If one experiences these symptoms or a sudden change in bowel habits, it is recommended that they see a doctor. Complications include colon cancer, blood clots, inflammation of the eyes, skin, and joints, and primary sclerosing cholangitis.
What causes inflammatory bowel disease?
It is suspected that IBD is caused by an immune system malfunction, but the exact cause of the disease is unknown. It is possible that while the immune system tries to fight off bacterial illnesses or viruses, it attacks the cells of the digestive tract as well due to a triggering of an abnormal response.
While the cause itself is unknown, there are factors that are known to lead to or aggravate IBD. They include cigarettes, diet, stress, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Another factor is age, as most people tend to be diagnosed with IBD before they are 30. Race can play a role as well, as white people are more likely to have this disease. If one is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, they are at an even higher risk. Environmental factors may also lead to or aggravate IBD, as those living in a northern climate or industrialized country are more likely to have inflammatory bowel disease.
How is inflammatory bowel disease diagnosed?
The first step in diagnosing IBD is ruling out other conditions that share similar symptoms. Other tests may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis, like blood tests, imaging tests, and endoscopic procedures.
What are the treatments for inflammatory bowel disease?
Treatment is aimed at reducing the inflammation in the digestive tract. In some cases treatment can lead to both symptom relief and long-term remission. Anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, and antibiotics are all common forms of treatment for IBD.
There are also methods used to manage the symptoms of IBD, such as anti-diarrheal medication, pain relievers, iron supplements, calcium supplements, and vitamin D. Nutritional support may also help with some of the symptoms.