What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term for two conditions (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) that are characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Prolonged inflammation results in damage to the GI tract.

What are the main types of IBD?

Croh’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Crohn’s Disease Ulcerative Colitis
Affected Location Can affect any part of the GI tract (from the mouth to the anus)—Most often it affects the portion of the small intestine before the large intestine/colon. Occurs in the large intestine (colon) and the rectum.
Damaged Areas Damaged areas appear in patches that are next to areas of healthy tissue. Damaged areas are continuous (not patchy) – usually starting at the rectum and spreading further into the colon.
Inflammation Inflammation may reach through the multiple layers of the walls of the GI tract. Inflammation is present only in the innermost layer of the lining of the colon.

What are the common symptoms of IBD?

  • Persistent diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Rectal bleeding/bloody stools.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue.

What causes IBD?

The exact cause of IBD is unknown, but IBD is the result of a weakened immune system. Possible causes are:

  • The immune system responds incorrectly to environmental triggers, such as a virus or bacteria, which causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • There also appears to be a genetic component. Someone with a family history of IBD is more likely to develop this inappropriate immune response.

How is IBD diagnosed?

  • A combination of endoscopy (for Crohn’s disease) or colonoscopy (for ulcerative colitis) and imaging studies, such as:
    • Contrast radiography.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
    • Computed tomography (CT).
  • Stool samples.
  • Blood tests.

How is IBD treated?

  • Types of common medications to treat IBD:
    • 5-aminosalicyclic acids.
    • Immunomodulators.
    • Corticosteroids.
    • Biologics.
  • Surgeries to remove damaged portions of the gastrointestinal tract.