Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

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Chart that says Inflammatory Bowel Disease

​Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two major inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract—from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis occurs in the large intestine or rectum. It’s usually diagnosed in teens and young adults. Three million US adults report having a diagnosis of IBD. Common symptoms include frequent diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stools, fever, weight loss, fatigue, and night sweats. IBD is a long-lasting disease and often does not go away completely. Although this chronic disease significantly affects quality of life, there are ways to manage it.


Key Facts

  • About 3 million US adults reported having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Up to 80,000 US children may have IBD.
  • Most people with IBD are diagnosed between ages 15 and 35 years.
  • Treatment usually involves medications, but more severe cases may require surgery.


Digestive system
Crohn’s Disease

In Crohn’s disease, inflammation can occur in any part of the gastrointestinal tract—from the mouth to the anus—but it most often affects the end of the small intestine where it joins the large intestine. Although patient receives treatment, they may still experience flare-ups. There also are periods that patients may not notice any symptoms.

Illustration of Digestive System
Ulcerative Colitis

In ulcerative colitis, inflammation occurs in the large intestine and the rectum. The symptoms mainly include diarrhea and abdominal pain. Ulcerative colitis is more common in men than women.

Doctor looking at MRIs
Diagnosis of IBD

Diagnosis is not straightforward. A series of laboratory tests, endoscopies, radiology scans, or diagnostic imaging will be performed to make a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Doctor consulting with patient
Complications of IBD

IBD may affect other parts of the body outside the gastrointestinal tract. For example, patients may suffer from mouth sores, skin rashes, or kidney stones.

Group of women walking
Healthy Lifestyle

Moderate exercise can strengthen the body’s immune system and reduce depression and anxiety that are common among IBD patients. IBD patients should not smoke. Alcohol should be avoided during flares-up as it may make symptoms worse. Having a healthy, well-balanced diet is important for overall health.

Prevention Tips

The cause of IBD is not well understood, so it cannot be prevented. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms and prevent other diseases that are complications of IBD.

  • Stop smoking. Smoking worsens treatment outcomes and increases flares-up among patients with Crohn’s disease.
  • Get recommended vaccinations. IBD patients treated with certain medications have a higher risk for infection.
  • Ask your doctor if you should be screened for colorectal cancer. Patients with IBD may need to start screening for colorectal cancer before age 50.
  • If you are a woman with IBD, talk to your doctor about how to prevent cervical cancer. Patients with IBD are at higher risk of cervical cancer.
  • Talk with your doctor if you do not feel like yourself and think that you might have depression or anxiety.
  • Ask your doctor if you need a bone density test. Certain medications used to treat IBD may increase your risk for osteoporosis.
  • Follow CDC guidelines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) prevention. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about receiving IBD treatment.