Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Crohn's disease

What is inflammatory bowel disease, Inflammatory bowel diseases are conditions associated with chronic or recurring inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The two most common forms of inflammatory bowel diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, both of which are marked by an immune response in the body. Ulcerative colitis affects the top layer of the large intestine, while Crohn’s disease affects the intestinal wall.

IBD causes the small and large intestines to become red or swollen.

Symptoms of IBD may include diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, bleeding from the rectum or joint pain. Skin problems and fever also may occur. These symptoms range in severity and often come and go.

Although the causes of IBD are uncertain, clinicians believe that an abnormality in the immune system causes the inflammation. They also believe there are genetic factors that cause the disease. Jewish people, white people, people who live in cities and those in developed countries are more likely to develop IBD. Smoking may also impact risk.

IBD is diagnosed using blood tests, a stool sample, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, X-rays using barium, computerized axial tomography (CAT or CT scan) or capsule endoscopy.

Because it is so difficult and time-consuming to diagnose, and because so little is known about it, there are few established preventive measures for IBD.

Treatment options range from changes in diet to nutritional supplements. Nutritional supplements may be part of dietary changes to improve IBD, as may avoiding greasy or fried foods, creamy sauces, meat products, spicy foods and foods high in fiber.

Doctors also recommend reducing stress, getting enough rest, medicines and surgery in extreme cases. Stress may not cause IBD, but it may exacerbate flare-ups.

Medicines to treat IBD include aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunomodulators, biologic therapies or antibiotics. Diarrhea and pain medications also may be used, but they should be used under the supervision of a doctor. Clinicians are currently investigating more advanced biologic therapies such as probiotics.

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