What is IBD?
IBD is the term used for Inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel diseases are considered autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s own immune system attacks elements of the digestive system. IBD is often confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a troublesome but much less serious condition. IBD occurs when the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) or digestive tract becomes inflamed. This disrupts the body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrition and eliminate waste in an effective manner.
The (2) two most common forms of IBD are :
- Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
- Crohn’s Disease (CD)
Symptoms of IBD:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Bloody diarrhea
- Severe urgency to have a bowel movement
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Anemia or low blood count
Crohn’s disease (CD) is one of the two most common forms of IBD (the other being Ulcerative Colitis (UC)) and is named after the doctor who first described it in 1932.
The main difference between Crohn’s disease and UC is the location and nature of the inflammatory changes. The inflammation from CD can strike anywhere in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from mouth to anus, although a majority of the cases start in the terminal ileum. Ulcerative colitis, in contrast, is restricted to the colon and the rectum. The inflammation in Crohn’s disease can extend into the muscle wall, whereas ulcerative colitis inflammation occurs only in the surface of the colonic lining.
In CD there are patches of inflammation are scattered between healthy portions of the gut, and this can penetrate the intestinal layers from inner to outer lining. Since CD can be located anywhere in the GI tract, symptoms can vary. On the whole however, they often include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and not surprisingly, weight loss and lack of energy. There may also be extra-intestinal manifestations (such as liver problems, arthritis, skin manifestations and eye problems) in different proportions.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic (lifelong) illness. People who have CD will experience periods of acute flare-ups, when their symptoms are active and other times when their symptoms go into remission.
Ulcerative colitis (Colitis ulcerosa, UC) is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A form of colitis, UC is a disease of the colon (large intestine), that is characterised by ulcers, or open sores. The main symptom of active disease is usually constant diarrhea mixed with blood, of gradual onset.
Ulcerative colitis is an intermittent disease, with periods of exacerbated symptoms, and periods that are relatively symptom-free. Although the symptoms of UC can sometimes diminish on their own, the disease usually requires treatment to go into remission.
Ulcerative colitis has no known cause but there is a presumed genetic component to susceptibility. The disease may be triggered in a susceptible person by environmental factors. Although dietary modification may reduce the discomfort of a person with the disease, ulcerative colitis is not thought to be caused by dietary factors.
Ulcerative colitis is treated as an autoimmune disease. Treatment is with anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppression, and biological therapy targeting specific components of the immune response. Colectomy (partial or total removal of the large bowel through surgery) is occasionally necessary if the disease is severe, doesn’t respond to treatment, or if significant complications develop. A total proctocolectomy (removal of the entirety of the large bowel) can be curative, but it may be associated with complications.