Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term for two chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Nearly 1.6 million people suffer from IBD in America. IBD is caused by inherited genes, environmental triggers, or an abnormality in your immune system—often a combination of the three. Because many of the symptoms associated with IBD are similar to other illnesses, and only testing can tell you what exactly is going wrong, it’s important to communicate with a GI specialist. Even though IBD is a chronic disease, your gastroenterologist can determine a treatment plan that is unique to you and can help you avoid constant discomfort. Becoming aware of everything that falls under the umbrella of IBD will help you—and your doctor—determine the best course of action.
Crohn’s Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis
One of the diseases that falls under IBD is Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease most commonly affects the end of the small intestine (the ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine, but it can affect any part of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus. With Crohn’s, inflammation can affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall and can move around leaving behind patches of inflammation and patches of healthy tissue.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is the other disease that falls under the umbrella of IBD. Unlike Crohn’s, UC is only found in the large intestine, also called the colon. It typically starts at the lower end of the colon or the rectum but can affect the entire colon. Ulcerative colitis is also limited to the inner wall (mucosa) where tiny ulcers filled with mucus develop.
Symptoms of IBD
The symptoms of both Crohn’s and UC are similar. They range from mild to severe and should be addressed by your doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms include loose bowel movements that suddenly become urgent, persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, and blood in the stool. You may also experience a loss of appetite, fever, weight loss, and fatigue. Diagnosis can only occur by proper testing from your physician. If you experience any of these symptoms and have a family history of IBD, schedule an appointment for testing. While the disease is chronic and cannot be cured, there are steps you can take to reduce severity and frequency of flare-ups.
Living with IBD
Even though IBD is an ongoing disease, there are treatments and lifestyle choices you can make to prevent flare-ups. Flare-ups are not caused by stress or diet, but these two factors can aggravate your intestine. Because Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis reduce your appetite, a healthy diet is important to give your body the nutrients it requires. You need to continuously replenish vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that have been lost as a result of diarrhea. You may find a correlation between flare-ups and spicy foods, dairy products, or foods that are high in fiber. Choosing soft, bland foods, from a variety of food groups, may help you feel better. Your doctor may determine the right medication that limits frequency and reduces the severity of flare-ups. In both cases of IBD, medication can help prolong seasons of remission and suppress your body’s abnormal inflammatory response. In severe cases, surgery may be an option. Although, with Crohn’s disease, the percentages are high of people whose symptoms recur years after their surgery.
Our goal is to help you reach remission. We take every case of IBD seriously and find a treatment plan that is unique to you. Don’t hesitate to talk with us about your concerns and your risks. It’s better to treat symptoms now before they become more frequent and severe. If you are looking for a trusted GI doctor in the Lubbock area, make an appointment with Dr. Sameer Islam today.