IBD Information: Symptoms and Risk Factors

Woman with stomach ache

Chronic inflammation along the lining of the digestive tract is known as Crohn’s disease (CD). Inflammation that is mostly confined to the lining of the large intestine is known as ulcerative colitis (UC). These are two of the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Effective treatment for Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis in Lehi, Utah, and other states begins with a good understanding of these conditions.

A dysregulated immune response

Although the exact cause of IBD is undetermined, the idiopathic condition of the gastrointestinal system is associated with a dysregulation of the body’s immune response. The intestinal tract is host to microflora — harmless organisms living in the gut that actually contribute to gastrointestinal health. When the immune system responds in a dysregulated way, the digestive tract becomes swollen and red. Pain is often a symptom accompanied by stomach cramps, as well as fever and diarrhea, which may include expulsion of blood. Some people become nauseous and vomit as well. Excessive blood loss could lead to anaemia.

The symptoms worsen for women who are experiencing their menstrual period. Symptoms wax and wane, but the condition is characterized by flare-ups and periods of remission. Overall, the symptoms can be taxing to the individual, and lead to fatigue and weight loss.

Diagnosis of IBD

A physical examination and history of present illness reveal the development of IBD. To be sure about a diagnosis, a gastroenterologist would typically order a variety of tests such as blood tests, stool exam, and colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. The colonoscopy is crucial since it allows a specialist to view the lining of the intestines, particularly the large intestines. This test will reveal if there are ulcers, inflammation, and bleeding int the gut. A biopsy may be taken to see whether the tissue lining is developing a malignancy. Persons with IBD are at higher risk than most for developing colon cancer.

The doctor may consider an upper endoscopy, which is a test that checks the status of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestines if Crohn’s disease is suspected. To rule out other conditions mimicking the symptoms of IBD, the doctor may add a CT scan or MRI to the list of tests.

Who are at risk for IBD?

Doctor with patient

Around 1.6 million Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, and other forms of IBD. Some people are at a higher risk for inflammatory bowel disease than others. The risk factors that are most closely associated with IBD are smoking, family history of the disease, and urban residence. While anyone can have the disease, particular ethnic groups are at a higher risk, including Ashkenazi Jews and Caucasians. IBD can happen at any age, but it usually affects persons 35 years and younger. Women are more affected by Crohn’s disease than men. Meanwhile, Ulcerative Colitis has a higher incidence among women.

IBD is a treatable disease, but it must be diagnosed and managed by a qualified gastroenterologist. Lastly, IBD must not be confused with IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. The symptoms may be similar, but there is no inflammation or tissue damage in IBS. Ask your doctor about the difference between IBD and IBS, and how to manage these problems effectively to improve quality of life.

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