Symptoms, Causes and Treatments of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

November 12, 2012

Symptoms, Causes and Treatments of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to describe Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both diseases are chronic, which means that they are long term. Additionally the primary symptom of both of them is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. However as well as the similarities, there are also significant differences between the two forms of bowel disease. Crohn’s disease can affect the entire digestive system all the way from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis on the other hand only affects the colon, also known as the large intestine. If the disease cannot be distinguished as one of the other it is known as indeterminate colitis. There are other types of inflammatory bowel disease, which are much more rare. Inflammatory bowel disease should not be confused with irritable bowel syndrome. The primary symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are very similar and include abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits, which can include urgent or bloody diarrhoea or in some cases constipation, weight loss and severe tiredness. Each individual suffering from inflammatory bowel disease experiences different symptoms and some people may not experience all of the symptoms listed above whist others may develop further symptoms such as nausea or a fever. It is common for symptoms to come and go over a long period of time. Quite often people will go through periods of feeling ill, and then recover for a while only for the symptoms to return a little later.

Causes of Inflammatory bowel disease are unknown but it is thought to be due to environmental factors that set of a trigger in susceptible individuals causing the immune system to stop functioning properly. Inflammation is caused in the digestive system by the immune system attacking it. Inflammatory bowel disease can develop at any age but it is most common in white people in their early 20’s. European Jewish people seem to be the most susceptible. Approximately one person in every 350 living in the UK suffer from the disease with around 100,000 people affected by ulcerative colitis and about 52,000 people affected by Crohn’s disease.

In most cases both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be initially treated with anti-inflammatory medication and immunosuppressant’s. These work to stop the harmful action of the immune system. Approximately 1 in 5 people who have ulcerative colitis have more extreme symptoms and will not respond to medication. In these cases their colon may need to be surgically removed. Crohn’s disease has a much more varied response to medication but around 4 in 5 people with this form of Inflammatory bowel disease will require surgery either to relieve symptoms or repair damage to the digestive system.


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