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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) 

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) encompasses various gastrointestinal conditions, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that refers to a number of different conditions causing chronic inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract. Two of the most common types of IBD are: 

  • Crohn’s disease, which can cause pain and swelling in any part of the digestive tract (stretching from the mouth to the anus) 
  • Ulcerative colitis, which can cause inflammation and ulcers within the rectum and colon (large intestine) 

IBD is a fairly common condition. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 3 million U.S. adults reported being diagnosed with IBD in 2015. 

Many people refer to IBD and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) interchangeably. While they have similar symptoms, they’re two different conditions requiring different treatment approaches. As its name suggests, IBS is a syndrome rather than a disease, which means that it involves a group of symptoms that may not have an identifiable cause. IBD is less common than IBS and, unlike IBS, can be life-threatening. It’s also possible for someone to have both IBD and IBS. 

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease 

Researchers don’t know what causes inflammatory bowel disease, but studies suggest that the following risk factors may play a role: 

  • Immune system response 
  • Stress 
  • Depression 
  • Smoking 
  • Using certain medications 
  • Family history of IBD 

Although IBD can affect people at any age, it’s most common among individuals between the ages of 15 and 30. 

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease 

The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease will vary depending on the specific type present, but some of the more common symptoms include: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • An urgent need to use the bathroom 
  • Stools containing blood or mucus
  • Gas 
  • Bloating 
  • Upset stomach 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Unexplained weight loss 

Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease 

If you think that you might have inflammatory bowel disease, it’s important to promptly seek treatment, since this condition can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer and complications such as: 

  • Anal fistulas 
  • Anal stenosis (stricture) 
  • Bowel perforation 
  • Severe swelling within the intestines (toxic megacolon) 
  • Cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and other types of liver disease
  • Kidney stones 
  • Anemia 
  • Blood clots 
  • Malabsorption  
  • Malnutrition 
  • Osteoporosis 

In addition to a physical examination, diagnosis of IBD may involve: 

  • Blood tests 
  • Stool tests 
  • Imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans 
  • Colonoscopy 
  • Endoscopy 
  • Sigmoidoscopy 

Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease 

There’s currently no cure for inflammatory bowel disease. However, lifestyle changes and certain types of prescription medication can help manage this condition. In some cases—such as when medication no longer relieves symptoms—surgery may be necessary. The gastroenterology specialists at Tampa General Hospital will develop a treatment plan that’s customized to your individual needs.