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Home > Services > Digestive Health > Digestive Conditions > Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Watch Traci Hedrick, MD, discusses inflammatory bowel disease.
Traci Hedrick, MD, discusses inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is swelling and irritation of the intestines. This can cause a range of symptoms including abdominal discomfort and problems breaking down food. Two forms of IBD are:

IBD is a lifelong illness. The symptoms may be constant or occur during flare-ups. There is no cure for IBD but treatments can help control symptoms.

Causes of IBD

The exact cause of IBD is not known. Some believe IBD may be the result of:

  • Inherited genetics (may be a family history of IBD)
  • Reaction to a virus or bacteria that damages the colon and rectum
  • Compromised immune system or infection that affects the immune system

The following factors increase your chance of developing IBD:

  • Having a family member with IBD
  • Being Caucasian or of northern European ancestry
  • Being of Jewish ancestry (increases the risk of certain types of IBD)
  • Having problems with the immune system

Symptoms of IBD

Symptoms depend on the type of IBD, but common symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Ulcers in the intestines
  • Inflammation of the rectum
  • Draining around the rectum
  • Bloating or feeling of fullness
  • Gas
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Abdominal sounds (such as gurgling)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Joint pain

Diagnosing IBD

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may need images of the intestines to look for swelling and irritation or other conditions. Image may be taken with:

Your doctor may also look for signs of infection through:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool culture

Colonoscopy

Colonoscope

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IBD Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle Changes

IBD symptoms may be reduced with simple dietary changes. In general, eat a diet that is:

  • Low in fat
  • Rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Consider reducing fiber and dairy products

Overall wellness may also play a role in reducing IBD flare-ups. Find ways to reduce stress. Get plenty of rest.

Medications

Most medicines for IBD focus on reducing the swelling and irritation. Medicines include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immune system suppressors
  • Antibiotics to kill germs in the intestinal tract
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Laxatives
  • Pain relievers

Surgery

Surgery is not helpful for all types of IBD. For people with very severe ulcerative colitis, a surgery to remove the colon may be done.

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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