Inflammatory Bowel Disease – or IBD is a grouping of diseases that affect the bowel; Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. They are known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease as both these diseases cause significant inflammation in the intestinal tract.
Often there is confusion between an IBD and IBS – or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. An IBD is a diagnosable condition; it can be definitively diagnosed through investigations. IBS however is a symptom or group of symptoms that result from an underlying condition – this may be associated with various conditions.
The two main IBD are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Both affect the bowel, however their effects vary. Ulcerative Colitis causes inflammation to only the inner lining of the bowel and rectum. Crohn’s Disease however causes inflammation to the full thickness of the bowel wall and can also cause inflammation at any point from the mouth, through to the anus.
While the exact cause of IBD is unknown, several factors seem to be associated with the development of inflammatory bowel disease. These may include:
- Family history: If you have a sibling or a parent with IBD, you may be more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease.
- The immune system: The immune system is designed to defend your body from pathogens that cause disease and infections. In people with IBD, however, the immune system might mistakenly attack cells in the digestive tract to fight the inflammation.
- Smoking: Tobacco consumption is identified as a significant risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease even though a direct cause may not be proved.
Common symptoms of an Inflammatory Bowel Disease can often be confused with other symptoms being triggered from other underlying conditions. This is where a Gastroenterologist’s knowledge and experience are crucial in obtaining an accurate diagnosis; and accurate diagnosis is crucial as treatment needs to be targeted and specific.
Some of the symptoms people with an IBD experience are:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Lethargy (unexplained)
- Weight Loss (unexplained)
- Pain or swelling around the anus
Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases are dependant on the type of IBD, the severity of it, how much of the bowel is affected and the location of the affected bowel. For this reason, accurate diagnosis is crucial in the treatment and management of an IBD. Many people with an IBD, who are treated well and managing healthy and full lives, are not limited by the IBD.
Treatments can range from dietary modification (please do not implement dietary modification without consulting your Gastroenterologist), oral medications, suppository medications, intravenous medications, through to surgery in more severe cases.
If you would like to read more about Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, please refer to the GESA Fact Sheet on our fact sheet page.