What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease primarily describes two conditions; Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both are chronic conditions that result in the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Ulcerative colitis is when the colon and rectum become inflamed and small ulcers develop on the protective lining, which can bleed and produce pus. Crohn’s disease is inflammation of the protective lining, anywhere on the digestive tract. Sometimes it may be difficult to differentiate between the two conditions. Other, less common types of Irritable Bowel Disease include collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis.
Several factors contribute in causing the condition, commonly characterized by diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue. It is usually diagnosed in the late teen years or early twenties. It is estimated to affect more than 300,000 people in the UK.
Symptoms for Irritable Bowel Syndrome vary from person to person and may even change over time. Symptoms might go through phases of flare ups followed by a period of remission.
Main symptoms for both subtypes include;
- Pain, swelling or cramping in the stomach
- Recurring or bloody diarrhoea
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Extreme tiredness
Some people with severe symptoms may develop complications;
Strictures: Continuous inflammation followed by healing, which may cause scar tissue, creating a narow section of the bowel.
Fistulas: An abnormal channel connecting one internal organ to another, or to the outside of the body.
Not everyone experiences all the symptoms, it depends on the nature of their individual condition.
The exact cause for Irritable Bowel Syndrome is unclear, however several factors are known to contribute to its development.
Age:People diagnosed are usually younger than 30 years.
Race:People of the white race have the highest risk of the disease.
Genetics:One is more likely to develop the condition if you have a close relative with the condition
Where you live:People in urban areas have a higher chance of developing the condition.
Disruption to the immune system:Inflammation may be caused by the immune system attacking healthy tissue inside the digestive system while fighting off a virus or bacteria.
Inflammatory Bowel Disorder can be diagnosed based on the symptoms presented. Your GP will ask about your symptoms, its nature and severity, your family and medical history.
Certain tests and investigations can be further carried out to confirm the diagnosis.
Blood tests can show inflammation in the digestive tract, anaemia, and can check liver and kidney function. While stool tests can be carried out for signs of bleeding and inflammation.
If required, an endoscopy might be carried out, where a flexible tube with a small camera and light on one end is inserted inside to examine the digestive tract.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome cannot be cured, however symptoms can be managed long-term by changing your diet and lifestyle.
Mild forms usually do not need treatment, while for more severe cases causing discomfort, we can prescribe treatment options to relieve the symptoms and prevent them from recurring.
These include Asacol, Pentasa, Mezavant and Salazopyrin.