Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the term given to a group of disorders that cause inflammation or ulceration in the small and large intestines. IBD is divided into two major categories: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Ulcerative colitis appears to be slightly more common than Crohn's disease. The rate of IBD is increasing in Western cultures whereas it is virtually unknown in countries where people eat less refined foods. IBD can occur at any age but it is most common in those aged from 15 to 35.

Inflammatory bowel diseaseInflammatory bowel disease symptoms

Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulceration of the inner lining of the large bowel. The most common early symptoms are constipation with passage of blood or mucus in the stools. It may be months or years before diarrhea and abdominal pains develop.

Crohn's disease may affect any part of the upper and lower intestine, but most commonly the last part of the small intestine and/or parts of the large bowel. In Crohn's disease, the inflammatory reaction spreads throughout the entire thickness of the bowel wall. The symptoms of Crohn's disease are abdominal pain, especially in the right lower area of the abdomen, and diarrhea. There may also be rectal bleeding, weight loss and fever. The onset of Crohn's disease is often slow and insidious.

The most common complication of Crohn's disease is blockage of the intestine due to thickening of the bowel wall. In more severe cases, communicating passages known as fistulas, may develop between the affected bowel and other parts of the bowel, bladder, vagina or skin. Other complications include arthritis, skin problems, inflammation in the eyes and mouth, kidney stones and gallstones. Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic condition that can recur at various times during a person's life. Some people have periods of remission, which can last for years, when they are free of the symptoms; and there is often no way to predict when the symptoms will return. Inflammatory bowel disease can be particularly serious in children as it can severely affect growth and development. Crohn's disease is also likely to increase the risk of gastrointestinal cancer.

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