Conditions such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis that cause inflammation of the intestines are known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease estimate that Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) affects about 1 in 400 people in the
Ulcerative colitis is a condition which causes the colon (or large intestine) to become inflamed, often resulting in ulceration and bleeding. The colon or large intestine is the last part of the digestive system, and it extracts nutrients from undigested food before it is eliminated from the body.
Chron's Disease is a condition which causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, usually in the ileum or colon. This inflammation over time can damage sections of the digestive system causing additional complications.
The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease will vary depending on how much and which part of the digestive system is affected, and also depending on the level of inflammation. Symptoms can vary from mild (where the condition is a minor inconvenience) to severe cases (where the quality of life is severely affected). In severe cases, ulcers can form on the lining of the digestive system, and these can bleed and produce mucus.
Common symptoms include abdominal pain and bloody diarrhoea. There can also be a frequent need to go to the toilet, weight loss, loss of appetite, tiredness, fever, dehydration and anaemia.
The exact causes of inflammatory bowel disease are not known. Research suggests that genetic and environmental factors both play a part. In terms of genetics, studies have shown that many people with inflammatory bowel disease, also have a close relative who suffers from the disease.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease can also be associated with a malfunction of the immune system, where the body’s own cells attack the lining of the digestive system, causing inflammation. The body then takes this inflammation as a sign of further infection, so increasing the immune response in a vicious cycle. Some researchers believe that a viral or bacterial infection may be the trigger to cause the body’s cells to attack the digestive system lining. Others believe that it is just a malfunction of the immune system, fighting an infection when no infection is actually present.
Once inflammatory bowel disease has been diagnosed, you will usually be referred to a gastroenterologist who will assess the severity of your condition. The severity of the inflammatory bowel disease is judged by how many times you are passing stools, whether those stools are bloody, whether you have symptoms of fever, how much control you have over your bladder, and your general wellbeing.
Although there is no cure for inflammatory bowel disease, there are a number of successful treatments which can relieve the symptoms. A variety of medications can be used to either reduce the inflammation (such as steroids or amniosalicylates), or to reduce the immune system response (immunosuppressants). In some cases, hospitalisation or surgery may be required.