The first week of December is dedicated to Inflammatory Bowel Disease Awareness. Shining a light on IBD is important as awareness of the disease promotes early detection for others. Knowing more about different conditions and illnesses gives you a higher health literacy score, putting you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your health. Read on to learn more about what IBD is, as well as how it’s treated.

What Is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to describe a group of conditions that affect the GI tract. Patients may suffer from ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease together or separately. However, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s affect different parts of the digestive tract.

Crohn’s disease has the ability to affect the GI tract from the mouth to the rectum; this includes the small and large intestine as well as the colon. In ulcerative colitis, only the large intestine and the rectum are affected. The tissue damage experienced from UC can be continuous and severe, while with Crohn’s disease, the damage occurs in patches. Both conditions together offer the possibility of severe tissue damage in the length of the GI tract if left untreated. This is part of why early detection and awareness is so important.

When To See A Doctor

It is important to note that IBD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often get confused. IBS may present with some of the same symptoms that can cause discomfort and pain, but it is non-inflammatory in nature. So, while IBS symptoms can affect your quality of life, the condition does not have the likelihood of causing permanent damage, as with IBD.

Symptoms between the two conditions are common, with ailments such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, weight loss, fatigue, and nausea. If you experience a number of these symptoms for over 10 days to two weeks, it’s a good idea to consult your gastroenterologist for a clear diagnosis and treatment of symptoms. IBD is more dangerous than IBS, and at the very least should be ruled out.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease together takes a number of tests as different parts of the GI tract are affected. When it comes to Crohn’s, physicians most often use endoscopy, and for UC, colonoscopy is used. Other tests utilized for a definitive diagnosis include CT scans, MRI, and radiography with contrast. Surgery may be needed if there is already tissue damage as a result of IBD, but early detection offers many pharmacological solutions to arrest symptoms and prevent this from occurring. Different medications are described for different patients’ needs and conditions, but common classes of medications used for IBD include biologics, aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, and immunomodulators.

What Causes IBD?

Practicing preventative medicine is always a good habit, but in the case of IBD, this is a hard principle to preach. This is because scientists and researchers are not really sure what causes IBD, and believe it to be a mixture of factors. Genes and individual DNA likely have a lot to do with whether or not you’ll contract IBD. Some patients have an abnormal reaction in their digestive system to certain bacteria. IBD may also be caused by triggers in a patient’s environment, such as diet, stress, bacteria, or viruses. However, when it comes to your GI tract, it’s always best to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. One of the best ways to be proactive with IBD is to contact your doctor immediately when you feel something may be wrong. To learn more about the symptoms and treatment of IBD, or how to be tested, contact GI Associates today to make an appointment. With three separate locations and pediatric services, we can treat the entire family.

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