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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Overview

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) represents a group of intestinal disorders that cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract.The digestive tract comprises the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. It’s responsible for breaking down food, extracting the nutrients, and removing any unusable material and waste products. Inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract disrupts this normal process. IBD can be very painful and disruptive, and in some cases, it may even be life-threatening.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

As with other chronic diseases, a person with IBD will generally go through periods in which the disease flares up and causes symptoms, followed by periods in which symptoms decrease or disappear and good health returns. Symptoms range from mild to severe and generally depend upon what part of the intestinal tract is involved. They include:

  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Diarrhea that may be bloody
  • Severe urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Iron deficiency anemia due to blood loss

Causes

There is no exact cause of IBD. IBD is called an idiopathic disease (disease with an unknown cause). Possible causes may be:

  • Family history
  • Genes linked to IBD

Complications of inflammatory bowel disease?

Possible complications of IBD include:

  • Malnutrition with resulting weight loss
  • Colon cancer
  • Fistulas, or ulcers that go through the bowel wall, creating a hole between different parts of the digestive tract
  • Intestinal rupture, or perforation
  • Bowel obstruction

In rare cases, a severe bout of IBD can make you go into shock. This can be life-threatening. Shock is usually caused by blood loss during a long, sudden episode of bloody diarrhea.

Diagnosis for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The tests depend on the symptoms of IBD that include –

Complete Blood Count
  • If a patient has severe bleeding then hemoglobin level may drop and the count of the red blood cells decrease.
  • An inflammation in the body occurs when there is an increase in the count of white blood cells.
Stool Examination
  • The presence of blood traces in the stool can only be examined through a fecal occult blood test.
  • A stool is properly examined for eliminating the possibilities of parasitic, viral or bacterial causes of diarrhea.

Barium X-ray

  • Lower Gastrointestinal Tract : In this test, a barium is given in the form of an enema which retains in the colon and the x-rays can be taken. Through this, colon in patients having ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease and also abnormalities in the rectum can also be noticed.
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Tract : The test is used for finding abnormalities in the upper gastrointestinal tract. A patient is required to swallow a chalky white substance known as barium. This barium helps in coating the inside of the intestinal tract which can further documented on x-rays.
  • Sigmoidoscopy : The last one-third part of the large intestine can be visualized by using a sigmoidoscope. This one-third part includes the sigmoid colon and the rectum. The test helps in examining bleeding, ulcers and inflammation.
  • Upper Endoscopy : An endoscope is used if a patient has gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and nausea. The duodenum, esophagus and stomach are examined using an endoscope.

How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?

There are a number of different treatments for IBD.

Anti-inflammatory drugs are the first step in IBD treatment. These drugs decrease inflammation of the digestive tract. However, they have many side effects. Anti-inflammatory drugs used for IBD include sulfasalazine and its byproducts as well as corticosteroids.

Immune suppressants (or immunomodulators) prevent the immune system from attacking the bowel and causing inflammation. This group includes drugs that block TNF. TNF is a chemical produced by the immune system that causes inflammation. Excess TNF in the blood is normally blocked, but in people with IBD, higher levels of TNF can lead to more inflammation. Immune suppressants can have many side effects, including rashes and infections.

Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria that may trigger or aggravate IBD symptoms. Antidiarrheal drugs and laxatives can also be used to treat IBD symptoms.

Lifestyle choices are important when you have IBD. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to compensate for those lost in your stool. Avoiding dairy products and stressful situations also improves symptoms. Exercising and quitting smoking can further improve your health.

Vitamin and mineral supplements can help with nutritional deficiencies. For example, iron supplements can treat anemia.

Surgery can sometimes be necessary for people with IBD. Some IBD surgeries include:

  • Strictureplasty to widen a narrowed bowel
  • Closure or removal of fistulas
  • Removal of affected portions of the intestines, for people with Crohn’s disease
  • Removal of the entire colon and rectum, for severe cases of ulcerative colitis