The term “inflammatory bowel disease” (IBD) refers to conditions where the tissues in your digestive tract have experienced persistent (chronic) inflammation. IBD can have various forms.
Inflammatory colitis: The lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum are affected by this disorder, which causes inflammation and sores (ulcers).
Crohn’s disease: The lining of your digestive tract may become inflamed with this type of IBD, which frequently affects the deeper layers of the digestive tract. The small intestine is most frequently impacted by Crohn’s disease. However, it can also harm the upper gastrointestinal tract and, less frequently, the large intestine.
Diarrhea, rectal bleeding, stomach pain, exhaustion, and weight loss are typical symptoms of both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. IBD is simply a minor ailment for some individuals. Others suffer from a life-threatening ailment that makes them very weak.
Depending on the intensity of the inflammation and the location of the inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease symptoms can differ. Moderate to severe symptoms are possible. Periods of active illness are likely to be followed by intervals of recovery. The following signs and symptoms are shared by both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Blood in your stool
- Reduced appetite
- Unintended weight loss
When to Visit a Doctor
Consult a medical professional if you notice a consistent change in your bowel habits or if you exhibit any inflammatory bowel disease symptoms. Even though inflammatory bowel disease seldom results in death, it is a serious condition that occasionally may result in life-threatening consequences.
Inflammatory bowel disease’s precise origin is still uncertain. Stress and food were once thought to be contributing factors to IBD, but doctors now understand that they do not cause the condition. Immune system dysfunction is one potential factor. The immune system attacks the cells in the digestive tract when it launches an unusual immune response to combat an invading virus or bacteria.
Several gene mutations have been linked to IBD. IBD appears to be more prevalent in persons who have family members who have the condition, which may be related to heredity. However, this family history is not present in the majority of IBD patients.
Age: The majority of IBD sufferers are identified before they are 30. However, some people don’t start showing symptoms until their 50s or 60s.
Ethnicity or race: IBD can affect persons of any race, even though it is more common among white people. Other races and ethnicities are also experiencing an increase in cases.
Family background: If you have a close relative who has the condition, such as a parent, brother, or child, your risk increases.
Using cigarettes: The greatest significant preventable risk factor for Crohn’s disease is cigarette smoking. Using tobacco may help stave against ulcerative colitis. Smoking has more negative effects on your health as a whole than positive ones, and quitting can help your digestive tract in general as well as provide many other health benefits.
Drugs that are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory: These include diclofenac sodium, naproxen sodium (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, among others). These drugs could make IBD worse for those who already have it or raise the risk of getting it.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have some complications in common and others that are specific to each condition. Complications found in both conditions may include:
- Colon cancer: Having ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease that affects most of your colon can increase your risk of colon cancer. Screening for cancer with a colonoscopy at regular intervals begins usually about 8 to 10 years after the diagnosis is made. Ask your doctor when and how frequently you need to have this test done.
- Skin, eye, and joint inflammation: Certain disorders, including arthritis, skin lesions, and eye inflammation (uveitis), may occur during IBD flare-ups.
- Medication side effects: Certain medications for IBD are associated with a risk of infections. Some carry a small risk of developing certain cancers. Corticosteroids can be associated with a risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis: In this rather uncommon condition seen in people with IBD, inflammation causes scarring within the bile ducts. This scarring eventually narrows the ducts, restricting bile flow. This can eventually cause liver damage.
- Blood clots: IBD increases the risk of blood clots in veins and arteries.
- Severe dehydration: Excessive diarrhea can result in dehydration.