WHAT IS INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE?
Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) represent a group of intestinal disorders that cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract. Your digestive tract is responsible for breaking down food, extracting the nutrients and removing any unusable material and waste products. Inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract interferes with this normal process.
Long-standing symptoms like loose stools, the passage of blood or mucous in the stools, tummy pain, bloating, weight loss can all be symptoms of IBD. Some people may have problems outside of the digestive tract including a skin rash, joint pain, red eyes and liver problems.
Crohn disease and Ulcerative colitis are the two main subtypes of IBD.
WHAT IS CROHN DISEASE
It is an autoimmune disease where the immune system recognizes the lining of the digestive tract as foreign and attacks it, causing inflammation. This inflammation causes the lining of the digestive tract to develop ulcers and bleed. Crohn disease usually affects the colon and the last portion of the small intestine called the ileum, but it can affect the entire digestive tract from the mouth to the anus.
WHAT IS ULCERATIVE COLITIS
It is a disease in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops sores leading to bleeding and diarrhoea. The inflammation almost always affects the rectum and the lower part of the colon, but it can affect the entire colon. It does not affect other parts of the digestive tract.
WHAT CAUSES INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE?
The cause of IBD is unknown.
People who have a very close relative with IBD are at a much higher risk for developing it themselves.
Smoking is one of the main risk factors for developing Crohn disease. Smoking also aggravates the pain and other symptoms associated with Crohn disease. It increases the risk of complications too.
IBD is present in all populations. However certain ethnic groups including white people and people of Jewish descent have a higher risk for developing the condition.
IBD can happen at any age, but in most cases starts before the age of 35 years.
People who live in urban areas who tend to eat more fat and processed food have a higher risk of developing IBD.
IBD tends to affect men and women equally.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM PROLONG OR FREQUENT EPISODES OF LOOSE STOOLS AND TUMMY PAINS?
Consult a doctor, who will ask you questions about your symptoms. A physical examination will then be followed blood tests and stool tests. If needed the doctor will then refer you to a specialist to arrange a flexible sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy with a biopsy.
HOW IS INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE TREATED?
IBD usually follows a pattern of episodes of worse symptoms (flares) and well periods (remissions). The pattern can be variable, with repeated bouts of mild symptoms to severe and disabling symptoms. Lifelong treatment is needed for most people and taking your treatment regularly increases the chance of entering and staying in remission.
Physicians, gastroenterologists, nutritionists and surgeons are some specialities that will be involved in the management of IBD.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are the first step in IBD treatment. These drugs help decrease inflammation of the digestive tract. Immunomodulators and Biologics are other types of drugs that may be used if anti-inflammatory drugs aren’t enough. They prevent the immune system from attacking the bowel and causing inflammation. Most patients respond very well to these medications and enter into remission with near-normal life.
Surgery can sometimes be necessary for people with IBD, when their symptoms don’t improve with drug treatment alone or when they are very sick.
These are important when you have IBD. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to compensate for those lost in your stool. Avoiding stressful situations also improve symptoms. Regular exercise and quitting smoking is also very important.
Most patients with IBD can lead a normal active lifestyle while following medical advice.