What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

*I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. to write about the signs and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. All my opinions are my own.*


Inflammatory bowel disease.

Have you heard of it?

Do you know anything about it?

Are you wondering why I am talking about it?

What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?
I thought I knew what IBD was. I suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) many years ago. I assumed they were the same.

Oh, but I learned they are not! I learned a lot about IBD as a result of this post, and the information is important to add to that little catalog of good things to know!

If you have, or if someone you love has IBD… you’re likely very aware of it, and you know it can make life miserable. If you don’t know anyone with this disease now, it is very likely you may in the future.

IBD is a term used to describe disorders of the digestive tract that are characterized by long-term (chronic) inflammation.

That inflammation. It’ll do a number on a person.

IBD doesn’t just affect adults. In 2015, 1.6 million people were being treated for IBD, and 5% of those patients were under the age of 18. In fact, nearly 25% of people with IBD are diagnosed during childhood or teenage years.

The two most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).

  • CD: inflammation affects the entire digestive tract
  • UC: inflammation affects only the large intestine (also called the colon)

So, there’s a little background on IBD for ya, but what are the symptoms? (One important note: symptoms can vary from person to person and in the same person over time.)

IBD is a little tricky. There’s not a definitive checklist of symptoms. I mean, there IS a list, but it’s not cut and dry. So it’s important to dig in and learn about IBD…its symptoms and causes and risk factors.

Symptoms of IBD related to inflammation of the GI tract include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to move bowels
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation
  • Constipation

More general symptoms associated with IBD include fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, night sweats, and loss of a normal menstrual cycle.

Got that? No fun stuff there…yikes! Kids and teens with IBD are also affected by:

  • Anger about IBD symptoms and treatment
  • Body image
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling a lack of control over school and extracurricular activities

Awareness of the causes of and risk factors for IBD is important, though it is not entirely clear what the cause of IBD is. However, it IS known it is in part caused by an abnormal response to the body’s immune system.

Risk factors include age, race or ethnicity, family history of IBD, cigarette smoking, overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and where you live. You can to find more information about IBD risk factors.

Now. Treatment. This information is particularly interesting…the focus on treatment should not be to treat the symptoms. It can be tempting to achieve quick relief from IBD, but the relief is temporary. You should not settle for symptom management. You should seek out aggressive treatment.

Why? To:

  • Heal the inflammation of the bowel wall to eliminate symptoms altogether
  • Prevent additional bowel damage that could lead to more-severe complications
  • Improve quality of life

Why live with ongoing symptoms, however lessened, when there is the potential to live free of IBD and its life-affecting symptoms?

Oh yeah, and bowel damage. To effectively treat means to heal the bowel and ultimately reduce surgeries and hospitalization. If left untreated, the long-term consequences can be severe…even leading to colon cancer in some cases.

There is so much information surrounding IBD, I could write thousands of words. Instead, I’ll leave key information to the professionals:

If you think that you or someone you know might be suffering from IBD, visit your doctor or make sure your loved one visits a doctor. I hope the resources included in this piece will be a helpful tool as you advocate for your own health or the health of a loved one.

But there’s more! Check out this Facebook Live interview with Dr. Hanauer where he gives even more information on IBD and answers some really great questions:

(These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of bthe external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.)

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