Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Overview

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is the common name used to describe a set of two chronic diseases of the intestinal tract: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, as many as 1.6 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of these diseases, most before age 35.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two different diseases, but they share some characteristics. Both involve inflammation of the colon, but Crohn’s affects a specific segment of the colon through its entire thickness, from the inner to the outer lining. Ulcerative colitis is always present in the rectum and can also extend into the colon, but never the small intestine.

The primary symptoms of Crohn’s disease are abdominal cramps, diarrhea, delayed growth (in children), weight loss, fever and anemia. Depending on where in the GI tract the Crohn’s is located, other symptoms may also be present, including joint pain, kidney stones and urinary tract problems.

Patients with ulcerative colitis typically have bloody diarrhea as an initial symptom, and may also experience frequent bowel movements, abdominal and rectal pain, fever, weight loss, joint pain and skin rashes.

IBD is diagnosed with a combination of physical examinations, blood tests, imaging scans, and endoscopic procedures like colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy.

There is no cure for IBD, but both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be treated and managed with a variety of medications and surgical treatments.

Basics