Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term you might hear frequently on TV commercials advertising various prescription drugs available to help manage this condition of the GI tract. What you might not realize, unless you’re one of the millions of Americans who have the disease, is that IBD is an umbrella term covering two different types of bowel and digestive health conditions, both with some unique attributes and paths for treatment. We’re celebrating IBD Awareness Week at Associates in Digestive Health and it’s our goal to help you better understand the disease, how you can identify the symptoms, and what you can do to manage your condition and regain aspects of your life that can be overtaken by IBD.
What Does The Term IBD Cover?
Inflammatory bowel disease covers both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Although they share some symptoms, the underlying cause and potential long-term damage from the diseases differ greatly. Symptoms that overlap include stomach pains, alternating constipation or diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fatigue, weight loss, reduced appetite, and the feeling that a bowel movement isn’t complete. Symptoms of both diseases can differ by the individual patient or even day to day based on diet and individual circumstances.
What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Simply put, Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. This inflammation can be found anywhere along the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, although it is typically found in the small bowel at the beginning of the colon. The inflammation can go through all layers of the bowel wall. There are even varying types of Crohn’s disease, all which can present with slightly different symptoms and affect different areas of the GI tract.
What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is also a chronic condition of the GI tract, affecting the large intestine. The disease is a result of a poor response of your body’s immune system and causes inflammation of the large intestine, as well as ulcers. Unlike Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis only affects the lining of the colon.
What Treatments Are Available For IBD?
The first step to seeking treatment for IBD is to get a proper diagnosis. Although the cause of both Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are not fully understood, they’re both believed to be triggered by hereditary conditions and environmental factors, and are often aggravated by diet. A proper diagnosis is usually achieved with blood tests or stool samples, as well as endoscopic tests that can view the interior of the GI tract. Treatments vary based on your individual case and health and can include a number of different options. These treatments won’t cure the disease, only manage your condition and manage flare-ups. Treatments range from medications, adjustment in lifestyle and diet, and even surgery in certain cases. If you have been suffering from the symptoms of either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, make an appointment at either our Cape Coral or Fort Myers office to meet with one of our doctors. We can assess your symptoms, perform the necessary testing, and work with you on both a diagnosis and a treatment plan.