Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) | Digestive Health | Loyola Medicine

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Overview and Facts about Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes conditions that result from chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Two of the most common forms include ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine and rectum, and Crohn’s disease, which leads to inflammation in the lining of your digestive tract. IBD often leads to diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fatigue. The conditions can become severe, leading to debilitating circumstances.

Signs and Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The signs and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease can range from mild to severe. The symptoms can come and go. Some of the most common signs of IBD include:

  • Diarrhea and cramping
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stool
  • Reduced appetite and unintended weight loss

Causes and Risk Factors of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Although the root cause of inflammatory bowel disease is unknown, it may result from a malfunction in the immune system, causing your body to attack the healthy cells in your digestive tract. Risk factors for IBD include:

  • Being under 30
  • Being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • Having a family history of IBD
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Living in an industrialized country
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Tests and Diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

To diagnose inflammatory bowel disease and rule out other conditions, your doctor may request certain tests and procedures. They may ask for blood tests to look for signs of infection or anemia. They may request a fecal occult blood test to see if there is blood in your stool. A colonoscopy, endoscopy, or sigmoidoscopy uses a small camera attached to a tube to allow the doctor to examine the different parts of your digestive tract and determine the cause of your symptoms. During this procedure, they may take a small tissue sample, called a biopsy, to look at under a microscope. In some cases, your doctor may request an imaging procedure, including an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI.

Treatment and Care for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The treatment and care of inflammatory bowel disease depends on the severity of your symptoms. In many cases, anti-inflammatory medications can reduce the inflammation in your digestive tract and eliminate your symptoms. Other times, immune system suppressors are the best option, reducing the immune response that causes inflammation. Biologics may be used, which neutralize immune-system proteins. Your doctor may also recommend nutritional supplementation to help you overcome IBD. They may recommend a special diet through a feeding tube or IV nutrition, where nutrients are injected directly into your veins, allowing your bowels to relax.

In severe cases of IBD, surgery may relieve your symptoms. If you have ulcerative colitis, your doctor may remove the colon and rectum. If you have Crohn’s disease, your doctor may remove the damaged section of your digestive tract and reconnect the healthy tissue.