Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that inflame the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and disrupt your body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrition and eliminate waste in a healthy manner.

As a result, you might have any of the following symptoms: abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, fatigue, diarrhea (possibly bloody) and loss of appetite.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes a group of conditions. The two main forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. People have one disease or the other but not both. IBD also includes indeterminate colitis.

Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s disease is named after the doctor who first described it in 1932 (since he did not have the disease itself, it is sometimes more accurately called Crohn disease).

The inflammation from Crohn’s can strike anywhere in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from mouth to anus, but is usually located in the lower part of the small bowel and the upper end of the colon. Patches of inflammation are interspersed between healthy portions of the gut, and can penetrate the intestinal layers from inner to outer lining.

Crohn’s can also affect the mesentery, which is the network of tissue that holds the small bowel to the abdomen and contains the main intestinal blood vessels and lymph glands.

Symptoms

Since Crohn’s can be located anywhere in the GI tract, symptoms can vary. On the whole however, they often include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and, not surprisingly, weight loss and lack of energy.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic (lifelong) illness. People who have Crohn’s will experience periods of acute flare-ups, when their symptoms are active, and other times when their symptoms go into remission. The average risk of a flare-up in any one year is approximately 30%.

In 25% of those with Crohn’s, perianal disease may also develop. “Peri” means “around” – therefore perianal disease is located “around the anus”. Specifically this means that a person could develop:

  • painful, swollen skin tags (that appear to be haemhorrhoids but are not)
  • abscesses (bags of pus created inside the body as a result of infection)
  • fistulas (infections that have tunneled from the abscess to a hollow organ such as the rectum or vagina)
Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is more localized in nature than Crohn’s disease. Typically, the disease affects the colon (large intestine) including the rectum and anus, and only invades the inner lining of bowel tissue. It almost always starts at the rectum, extending upwards in a continuous manner through the colon. Colitis can be controlled with medication and in severe cases can even be treated through the surgical removal of the entire large intestine.

Symptoms
People suffering with ulcerative colitis experience severe and bloody diarrhea, false urges to have a bowel movement, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting, decreased appetite, weight loss, mild fever, anemia and loss of body fluids.

Colitis is a chronic (lifelong) disease. Like Crohn’s disease, people with colitis have acute periods of active symptoms, and other times when their symptoms are absent (remission). Unlike Crohn’s, there is usually not any pain during remission. During flare-ups, the pain is usually not constant but does seem to arise coincidentally with the urge to have a bowel movement. Often the pain is experienced more as a cramping sensation than as lancing pain.

One of the hallmark symptoms of colitis are the “false urges” that arise frequently during the day. People with false urges experience an extremely urgent need to have a bowel movement, and yet, when they try to expel feces, discover that they only have a small amount to pass. This sense of urgency is due to inflammation of the rectum.