Inflammatory Bowel Disease

(IBD; Regional Enteritis; Ileitis; Granulomatous Ileocolitis; Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Definition

    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is swelling and irritation of the intestines. This can cause a range of symptoms including abdominal discomfort and problems breaking down food. Two forms of IBD are:
    IBD is a lifelong illness. The symptoms may be constant or occur during flare-ups. There is no cure for IBD but treatments can help control symptoms.
  • Causes

    The exact cause of IBD is not known. Some believe IBD may be the result of:
    • Inherited genetics (may be a family history of IBD)
    • Reaction to a virus or bacteria that damages the colon and rectum
    • Compromised immune system or infection that affects the immune system
  • Risk Factors

    The following factors increase your chance of developing IBD:
    • Having a family member with IBD
    • Being Caucasian or of northern European ancestry
    • Being of Jewish ancestry (increases the risk of certain types of IBD)
    • Having problems with the immune system
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms depend on the type of IBD, but common symptoms may include:
    • Abdominal pain and cramping
    • Diarrhea
    • Weight loss and loss of appetite
    • Bleeding from the intestines
    • Ulcers in the intestines
    • Inflammation of the rectum
    • Draining around the rectum
    • Bloating or feeling of fullness
    • Gas
    • Bloody diarrhea
    • Abdominal sounds (such as gurgling)
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Joint pain
  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may need images of the intestines to look for swelling and irritation or other conditions. Image may be taken with:
    Your doctor may also look for signs of infection through:
    • Blood tests
    • Stool culture
    Colonoscopy
    Colonoscope
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  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
    Lifestyle Changes
    IBD symptoms may be reduced with simple dietary changes. In general, eat a diet that is:
    Overall wellness may also play a role in reducing IBD flare-ups. Find ways to reduce stress. Get plenty of rest.
    Medications
    Most medicines for IBD focus on reducing the swelling and irritation. Medicines include:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Corticosteroids
    • Immune system suppressors
    • Antibiotics to kill germs in the intestinal tract
    • Anti-diarrhea medicine
    • Laxatives
    • Pain relievers
    Surgery
    Surgery is not helpful for all types of IBD. For people with very severe ulcerative colitis, a surgery to remove the colon may be done.
  • Prevention

    Since the cause is not clear, there are no known prevention steps.
  • RESOURCES

    American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org

    National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Family Physician http://www.cfpc.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    References

    Botoman VA, Bonner GF, et al. Management of inflammatory bowel disease. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/980101ap/botoman.html . Published 1998. Accessed June 27, 2007.

    Brandt LJ, Steiner-Grossman P, eds. Treating IBD: A Patient’s Guide to the Medical and Surgical Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease . New York, NY: Raven Press; 1989.

    Inflammatory bowel disease. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/digestive/disorders/252.html . Updated February 2011. Accessed December 28, 2012.

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated November 25, 2012. Accessed December 28, 2012.

    Steiner-Grossman P, Banks PA, et al, eds. The New People Not Patients: A Source Book for Living With IBD . Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company; 1992.

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