Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. Most often it affects the portion of the small intestine before the large intestine/colon. Ulcerative colitis. This condition involves inflammation and sores (ulcers) along the superficial lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. Crohn’s disease. This type of IBD is characterized by inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which often can involve the deeper layers of the digestive tract.
What causes IBD?
The exact cause of IBD is unknown, but IBD is the result of a defective immune system. A properly functioning immune system attacks foreign organisms, such as viruses and bacteria, to protect the body. In IBD, the immune system responds incorrectly to environmental triggers, which causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. There also appears to be a genetic component—someone with a family history of IBD is more likely to develop this inappropriate immune response.
What are the symptoms of IBD?
- Persistent diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding/bloody stools
- Weight loss
How is IBD treated?
Several types of medications may be used to treat IBD: aminosalicylates, corticosteroids (such as prednisone), immunomodulators, and the newest class approved for IBD—the “biologics”. Several vaccinations for patients with IBD are recommended to prevent infections. Severe IBD may require surgery to remove damaged portions of the gastrointestinal tract, but advances in treatment with medications mean that surgery is less common than it was a few decades ago. Since Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect different parts of the GI tract, the surgical procedures are different for the two conditions.
How is IBD diagnosed?
IBD is diagnosed using a combination of endoscopy (for Crohn’s disease) or colonoscopy (for ulcerative colitis) and imaging studies, such as contrast radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT). Physicians may also check stool samples to make sure symptoms are not being caused by an infection or run blood tests to help confirm the diagnosis.
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