Know about Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Do you have any of the following symptoms? 

  1. Long-standing diarrhea 
  2. Blood in stools 
  3. Pain or cramps in the abdomen 
  4. Repeated mouth ulcers
  5. Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss 
  6. Unexplained fatigue? 
  7. Persistent fever 

Your symptoms can be due to inflammatory bowel disease also.

 Q: What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

It is a condition where the intestines are chronically inflamed resulting in damage. There are two main types namely Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine and rectum. Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation in any part of the gastrointestinal tract. It most commonly occurs in both the small intestine and colon. 

Q: What are the symptoms of IBD?

A: Symptoms may range from mild to severe as said above.  

Q: What causes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis?

A: Despite intensive research, no exact cause is known.  Studies show that many things work together to cause IBD. They are inherited traits called “genes” and something in the environment called “antigens” that trigger the body’s defenses to “turn on” inflammation. Once an IBD patient’s immune system is “turned on,” it does not know how to properly “turn off” at the right time. As a result, inflammation damages the intestine and causes the symptoms. One example of environmental triggers is smoking.  

Q: How to diagnose IBD? 

To help confirm a diagnosis of IBD, one or more of the following tests may be performed.

1. Blood tests: (To find the presence of inflammation in the body) 

Measurement of red and white blood cells, Erythrocyte sedimentation rates, platelets, and C-reactive protein (CRP). 

2.  Stool tests: (To look for signs of inflammation in the GI tract as well as infections. 

Stool routine examination, fecal Calprotectin

3.  Endoscopic procedures: Utilizing a flexible tubular camera to look inside the digestive tract by entering through the mouth or anus. If necessary biopsy can be done in the same setting.  We can use different types of endoscopes like- OGD scopy, Colonoscopy or Double Balloon Enteroscopy

4. External imaging procedures: Utilizing technologies to generate images of the digestive organs from outside the body like computerized tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Q. What are the treatment options available for IBD?

There are many treatment options starting from medicines that suppress the inflammation to surgery. It is a complex decision that has to be taken after considering every detail of that patient. But in general, if treated early and properly most of the symptoms can be treated with medicines. It is often the delay in diagnosis or poor treatment that leads to surgery. 

Q: Can a change in diet cure IBD? 

A: Unfortunately, there is no pre-formulated diet plan that prevents the development or cures every IBD patient. Dietary guidelines must be developed based on your very specific needs. These will take into account the type of disease, the severity and location of your disease, and complications, if any. The goal is to keep a well-balanced, healthy diet that is rich in nutrients.

Q. Is Inflammatory Bowel disease a variety of cancers? 

A: No. However, since the intestines are chronically inflamed, they can lead to cancer which can be very well prevented by proper follow-up. 

Q: Are Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and IBD the same? 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that affects the function and behavior of the intestines. Normally, the muscles lining the intestines intermittently contract and relax to move food along the digestive tract. In IBS, this pattern is disturbed, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms. Symptoms can include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, mucus in the stool, diarrhea, and/or constipation Unlike IBD, IBS does not cause inflammation, permanent damage to the GI tract, or an increased risk of colorectal cancer. However, a diagnosis of IBS can often be made after ruling out other serious causes of these symptoms. 


About the Author

Dr. Sweetha S M.D., D.M., is consultant Gastroenterologist of GEM Hosptial Chennai, with a special interest in field of IBD.

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