Inflammatory Bowel Disease
What is inflammatory bowel disease?
- chronic inflammatory conidition of the digestive system
- two main types are Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC)
- can involve any part of the digestive tract, most comminly at the end of small intestine (terminal ileum) and parts of the colon
- more uncommon areas are the esophagus and stomach
- involves the inner layer of the colon only
- always involves the rectum and goes upward to different extents to involve the colon
- different subtypes: for example, ulcerative proctitis only involves the rectum
It is important that you know the extent of your disease anatomically as it may determine the type of treatment and the need for regular colonoscopies. In a small number of patients it is difficult to classify them as either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. These patients have indeterminate colitis.
- abdominal pain, weight loss, change in their appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and blood in their stools
- symptoms are not unique to IBD, your doctor may recommend a number of tests to ensure you do not have another reason for your symptoms
- contact your doctor’s office if your disease has been quiet, meaning “no symptoms”, and your symptoms reappear, even if you are already on treatment
- may develop "extraintestinal manifestations" - symptons outside the digestive system (rash, joint pain/ sweeling, back stiffness/ pain, eye symptoms)
One of the first questions patients ask is, “How will this disease affect my life?". This depends on the severity of your symptoms and your response to treatment. IBD is a lifelong condition and we understand that IBD can affect your general sense of well being and quality of life (see treatment of IBD).
What causes IBD?
- “idiopathic”, ie exact cause unknown
- result of multiple factors, including genetic, immunologic and environmental factors (such as smoking)
- a lot of research taking place both nationally and internationally and scientists and doctors are learning more about possible causes
- we encourage our patients to get involved if they are interested by taking part in our collaborative efforts with other centers to look for the cause of IBD.