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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is actually a group of chronic conditions that cause inflammation in different parts of the intestines. It’s considered an autoimmune disease- a disease where the immune system accidentally attacks the digestive system.  Intestinal walls can become inflamed or swollen, and ulcers can also develop, which can cause discomfort as well as a number of serious digestive issues.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is different than Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBD is generally less common than IBS and is also considered to be more serious, because its symptoms can create more interruption with daily life and have more serious complications. People with IBD tend to have ulcers, inflammation and other visible damage in the digestive tract.  People with IBS have symptoms such as cramps, diarrhea and constipation, but there’s no damage to the digestive tract.

Types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

There are 2 main types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. The difference between these 2 conditions is the nature and location of the inflammatory changes.

Crohn’s Disease can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, from mouth to the anus. It can create damage in the deeper layers of the digestive tract. The small intestine and colon are often involved in Crohn’s disease, and the internal tissues may develop shallow, crater-like sores or cobblestone sores.

Ulcerative Colitis affects only the colon and rectum. While Crohn’s disease affects the deeper layers of the digestive tract, Ulcerative Colitis only affects the innermost or top level of tissue in the digestive tract. The more the colon is affected, the worse the symptoms.

Symptoms of IBD

There are several symptoms of IBD. The symptoms for Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative Colitis are relatively similar. They include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Diarrhea multiple times per day
  • Bloody stools
  • Weight loss

There are also a number of symptoms visible outside of the digestive tract, including:

  • Mouth sores and skin problems
  • Arthritis
  • Eye problems that affect vision
  • Rarely some urinary problems

Though stress is not a cause of IBD, an increase in stress can trigger flare ups, or make symptoms worse.

Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Though there are a couple different methods of diagnosing inflammatory Bowel Disease, the most important test is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure where a thin tube with a camera at the end is inserted into the rectum of a patient under moderate sedation. The colonoscopy can discover lesions, inflammations, ulcers, and other symptoms of IBD. Even small ulcers and lesions can be detected using this procedure.

Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease

There are a number of different treatments available, including special diets, activities and medications. The best step is to get started by talking to a physician about your symptoms, let them help you determine the severity of IBD and recommend the best treatment for your symptoms.