Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a recurring disease that causes discomfort to the patient in the colon, or large intestine. While the cause of IBD is not known, it is believed that a compromised immune system can put the patient at risk. The tissue in the lining and deeper tissues of the digestive tract are most affected by IBD, as they become inflamed, and later result in ulcers and bleeding. This will cause the patient painful cramping and bloating. The two major types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease; there are several other types that are not as common. The significant difference between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is where the symptoms occur; Crohn’s disease causes inflammation anywhere from the mouth to the rectum. On the other hand, in ulcerative colitis, inflammation takes place strictly in the colon and rectum.
Treatment for either type of IBD is typically medication to reduce inflammation that causes most of the discomfort for patients, or medicine that will protect against the faulty immune system response. Lifestyle changes such as stress management are also sometimes prescribed in addition to any medicinal treatment.
IBD can sometimes be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) because of their similar symptoms; the most crucial distinction between the two is that IBD causes permanent damage to the digestive tract, while IBS does not. It is essential for patients to work with their doctor to differentiate between the two so that they can get on the path to recovery. A colonoscopy or endoscopy may be necessary to make this distinction.
Based on a physical exam and noted symptoms, a physician will determine if IBD is a likely culprit. If so, a colonoscopy or endoscopy may be used to pinpoint the areas that are causing inflammation and ulcers. During the procedure, the physician may choose to take a tissue sample, otherwise known as a biopsy, of any area that he or she feels may be the issue in order to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests, stool samples, and diagnostic images may also be used to rule out other possible conditions that may be causing the discomfort.