Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the chronic redness and swelling (inflammation) of all or part of the digestive tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. The exact cause of the inflammation in IBD is not known, but a person’s immune system and genetic makeup are both thought to play a role. Risk factors for developing IBD includes older age, Caucasian (white) ethnic background, cigarette smoking, and using certain medications.
The two main types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is a condition that causes inflammation and sores (ulcers) on the inside lining of the large intestine. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation that spreads deep into the affected tissue and usually affects the large intestine, the small intestine, or both. Symptoms of IBD vary and depend on the location and severity of the inflammation. Symptoms may include diarrhea, fever and fatigue, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in the stool, reduced appetite, and unintended weight loss.
To diagnose IBD, a physician will first rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. To confirm a diagnosis of IBD, your doctor may order a blood test to look for low red blood cells (anemia), a procedure that uses a small camera to examines your digestive tract for signs of IBD (endoscopy or colonoscopy), and imaging tests (X-rays, CT, or MRI) to look for evidence of IBD. Treatment includes the use of medications that reduces the immune system’s response and decreases the inflammation in the digestive tract. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Although this condition is serious, affected individuals can live a normal life with proper treatment and care. If you or your child has been diagnosed with IBD, talk with your doctor about the current treatment options.