Inflammatory Bowel Disease, otherwise known as IBD, is a medical condition involving inflammation of the digestive tract. IBD can include both Crohn’s disease as well as ulcerative colitis and can cause significant symptoms including abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and significant pain. In severe cases, IBD can even cause life threatening complications.
The causes of IBD are not yet certain. Researchers do not believe that lifestyle issues such as diet and alcohol consumption are the main causes of IBD. Rather, most scientists think that IBD is caused by problems in the immune system, where the body’s response to a perceived pathogen causes ongoing inflammation in the digestive tract. Heredity seems to also play a role in IBD, with children of IBD sufferers more likely to experience IBD symptoms themselves.
IBD generally impacts men and women equally. The disease can impact people of any age, but most commonly begins around age 30. Additional risk factors in developing IBD include the use of acne medication called Isotretinoin, use of pain medications like Advil, Motrin, Aleve, and Aspirin, and cigarette smoking. Cigarettes in particular are known to lead to more severe Crohn’s disease symptoms, and smokers experiencing any issues with IBD are strongly encouraged to quit.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of IBD, you should make an appointment with your local gastroenterology clinic as soon as possible. When you visit your gastroenterologist, he or she will attempt to diagnose IBD in various ways. Firstly, other potential causes of your symptoms such as colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and diverticulitis will be ruled out. To confirm and complete your diagnosis of IBD, your doctor may perform a range of tests including a blood test, stool sample, colonoscopy, X-Ray, CT scan, MRI, endoscopy, and other related tests.
Once you have confirmed a diagnosis of IBD, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. The most common initial treatment for IBD is anti-inflammatory drugs such as Azulfidine, Mesalamine, and Olsalazine. These drugs can be effective at reducing symptoms of IBD, but also will carry side effects that you should discuss with your doctor.
Immune system suppressors may also be used. These are similar in effect to the anti-inflammatory drugs, but they work by reducing your immune system response which creates inflammation, rather than targeting the inflation itself. Common immune system suppressors include Azathioprine, Cyclosporine, Infliximab, and Adalimumab.
If pharmaceutical options and lifestyle changes are not effective at managing IBD, your gastroenterologist may recommend surgery. For treating Crohn’s disease, surgery can provide years of remission, but usually does not cure the disease. Typical Crohn’s disease treatment includes removing the damaged portion of the intestine and reconnecting the healthy sections. For ulcerative colitis, surgery can provide a complete cure, however the procedure is intense and invasive, requiring the removal of the entire colon and rectum.
If you are suffering from any of the potential symptoms of IBD, it is important to see medical help from your local gastroenterologist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to ensure your long term recovery and quality of life. If you’re located in the DFW region, the team at AGS Texas can help with your IBD issues. To learn more about our practice and book an appointment, please contact us today.