Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic condition in which all, or part, or your digestive tract is inflamed. There are several conditions that can exist under the umbrella of IBD:
- Ulcerative Colitis - this is a condition which usually affects the innermost lining of the large intestine, colon and the rectum.
- Crohn's Disease - Crohn's Disease can occur anywhere along the digestive tract and can penetrate deep into the tissue layers.
- Collagenous Colitis and Lymphocytic Colitis - These are conditions that cause chronic watery diarrhea. They are considered by many doctors to be different stages of the same condition and are treated as a separate class from what is typically considered IBD.
IBD is never an acute condition. It is considered chronic and takes place over a period of years.
What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Unfortunately for patients suffering from IBD, there may be many causes. It is sometimes thought to be a condition related to diet, lifestyle, and/or stress. It is believed that stress can exacerbate existing IBD. The two most common areas that may be a cause of IBD are:
- The immune system: Some scientists feel that IBD is the result of a bacterial or viral infection which the immune system was unable to fight off. The fight between the attacker and immune system could be the cause of inflammation. Another thought is that there are no pathogens involved at all. Rather, IBD could be some kind of autoimmune disorder where the patient's immune system is attacking the digestive tract, thereby causing chronic inflammation and irritation.
- Genetics: Scientists have been able to demonstrate that if a family member suffers from IBD, a patient is more likely to develop IBD. However, the heredity explanation is not 100% proven either as most people who have IBD do not have a family history of the condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Because Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome is an umbrella term for multiple conditions, it is easiest to list the specific conditions with a list of symptoms below.
this condition is classified further by the specific symptoms:
This condition is specific to the anus and is signaled by:
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- An urgent need to have frequent small bowel movements
The inflammation involves the rectum and the lower portion of the colon, called the sigmoid colon.
- Abdominal cramping/pain
- Bloody diarrhea
- Not being able to have a bowel movement, despite a persistent urge to go (different from constipation)
The rectum, sigmoid, and descending colon go up along the left side of the upper abdomen, hence the name.
- Abdominal pain/cramping on the left side
- Bloody diarrhea
- Unexplained weight loss
This is usually present in the entire colon.
- Severe bloody diarrhea
- Noticeable weight loss
Affecting the entire colon, this rare form of Colitis is life-threatening. It can result in a mega-colon which can eventually rupture if not treated.
- Severe pain
- Profuse bouts of diarrhea
It can occur in any area of the digestive tract but most commonly affects the small intestine and the colon. Bouts can be acute and intermittent.
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Blood in the stool
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Severe bouts of Crohn's disease can also manifest:
- Inflammation in the eyes
- Liver and bile ducts can become inflamed
- Skin disorders
If a child has Crohn's Disease, it can slow his/her growth and potentially delay sexual development.
An individual should always consult a doctor if there are any changes in bowel habits or if s/he experiences any of the indicators for Irritable Bowel Disease.
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