Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a chronic disease that affects the tissues of the digestive tract, most commonly the colon, or large intestine. The cause of IBD is unknown, but researchers believe a faulty immune system plays a major role. Inflammatory bowel disease causes inflammation in the lining and deeper tissues of the digestive tract, resulting in ulcers (sores) and bleeding, as well as painful cramping and bloating.
Yes. The two primary types are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, but there are several other less common types as well. One of the primary differences between Crohn's and ulcerative colitis is where the inflammation occurs: In Crohn's disease, inflammation can occur anywhere in your digestive tract, from your mouth to your rectum, while in ulcerative colitis, inflammation is restricted to your colon and rectum.
IBD can usually be managed with medication to help reduce inflammation that causes sores and painful symptoms or drugs to help control the faulty immune system response. Sometimes, lifestyle changes like learning to manage stress can also help. Irritable bowel syndrome can often produce some of the same symptoms, but it does not cause permanent damage to the digestive tract. A careful diagnosis is necessary to differentiate between the two to ensure the best and most appropriate treatment.
If based on your physical exam and symptoms, IBD is suspected, you may have a colonoscopy or endoscopy to look inside your digestive tract and evaluate the areas for signs of inflammation and ulcers. A small tissue sample, or biopsy, may be taken to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests, stool samples, and diagnostic imaging may also be performed to rule out other conditions.
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