Understanding IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a disorder of the digestive tract that results in chronic inflammation. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common forms of IBD. Ulcerative colitis specifically affects the colon and rectum while Crohn’s disease inflames all areas of the gastrointestinal tract. While a direct cause is not known, inflammatory bowel disease is thought to be a result of an abnormal immune response that causes the immune system to attack the digestive track.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood in stool
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Lack of childhood development

While one’s stress and diet may not be directly causing inflammation, lifestyle changes can help to relieve symptoms. Avoid dairy products and other problematic foods to see how they affect your flare-ups. Additionally, while fiber is known to help with bowel issues, it could behaving an adverse effect. Drink plenty of water and experiment with more frequent smaller meals.

Risk Factors

  • Age: Most patients are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease before the age of 30.
  • Race & Ethnicity: Caucasians and those of Ashkenazi Jewish decent are at the most risk for inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Family History: Those with a first-degree relative who have suffered from IBD are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Cigarette Smoking: IBD is most common among smokers.
  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, Advil and Aleve have been known to aggravate IBD.
  • Environment: The disease tends to affect those who live in more urbanized and developed areas as well as northern climates.

Patients who are experiencing signs of IBD or know that they are at an increased risk for developing it should take preventive measures by routinely checking in with a healthcare professional. Having IBD increases your risk for colon cancer and blood clots.

Although there is no cure for inflammatory bowel disease, medication is an effective treatment option for those with ulcerative colitis. However, 70% of those with Crohn’s disease often require surgery in order to relieve their symptoms.

If you or a loved one feels they could have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, schedule an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained gastroenterologist today.

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