Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involves chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract. Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis fall under the IBD umbrella. Both types of IBD usually involve severe diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and cramping, fever, fatigue and weight loss. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and without proper treatment and management, the disease can be debilitating. IBD affects an estimated 600,000 Americans every year.
A combination of blood work, endoscopic tests and imaging procedures may be used to diagnose IBD and rule out other causes for the symptoms. There is currently no cure for IBD, but treatment can help to reduce inflammation and minimize symptoms. Treatment options include anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics or other medication and possibly surgery, if a person doesn’t respond to any other treatment. Some may find changing their diet or eating habits and reducing stress can help lessen the intensity of symptoms.
IBD can be very painful and disruptive to one’s lifestyle and everyday routine. Although it is a gastrointestinal disease, approximately 25-40% of people with IBD experience symptoms that are outside their GI tract. IBD can affect the skin, joints, eyes, bones, mouth, liver and kidneys. IBD can be physically draining but it can also have mental and social consequences. Many people live in constant fear of a flare-up, have to modify their lifestyles to be prepared for whatever the disease throws at them and sometimes need to skip out on events or cancel plans with friends because of a sudden flare-up.
There are a number of organizations available to offer support and resources to people with various forms of IBD. Research continues to be done to further understanding of the disease and how best to treat it.