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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term that includes two conditions: ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. Both conditions affect your digestive track and cause long-term inflammation (swelling). UC affects your large intestine (colon) while Crohn’s disease may affect any part of your digestive track, from your mouth all the way to your colon and anus.
Depending on how severe your IBD is, your symptoms can range from mild and annoying to bad enough that they interrupt your daily life. People with IBD may have symptoms for weeks or months, and then find relief when the illness isn’t active. This is called remission. Common symptoms include diarrhea, blood in stool, fever, feeling tired all over, less appetite than normal, abdominal pain and cramping, and weight loss for no known reason.
If other treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery for your IBD. Surgery can cure ulcerative colitis. Depending on the extent of the disease and other factors, there are several surgical treatment options. The most common surgery involves removing your entire colon and rectum and creating a permanent ileostomy through which waste is emptied into an external bag. Another surgical option requires removing your colon and creating an internal pouch that allows normal bowel function so patients can avoid having to wear an external bag.
With Crohn’s, roughly half of people with the disease have at least one surgery. These procedures don’t cure Crohn’s, rather they provide temporary relief through removal of the affected part of the colon. In many cases, the disease returns in the remaining colon, and subsequent surgery may be necessary.
Usually, doctors only diagnose IBD after they rule out other illnesses that could cause the same symptoms. Your doctor may use blood tests, imaging procedures or endoscopic procedures, such as a colonoscopy, to help diagnose IBD.
To find relief from your IBD symptoms, your doctor will work with you to reduce the inflammation in your colon and rectum. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medicines or even surgery. If these treatments work, you might find some relief from your symptoms, or in some cases, a longer remission from IBD.
1. Mayo Clinic website. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353315. Accessed July 15, 2019.
2. UCLA Health website. https://www.uclahealth.org/gastro/ibd/ulcerative-colitis-vs-crohns-disease. Accessed July 15, 2019.