Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is characterized by inflammation of the small or large intestine. If someone is suffering from IBD the walls of the intestine have been damaged and have involvement. There are two major diseases that fall into that category, Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Both Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis can have symptoms in the digestive system and outside of the digestive system. Symptoms in the digestive system include abdominal cramping and pain, diarrhea sometimes bloody, frequent wanting to go have bowel movements. Severe complications can include ulcers in the intestine that could bleed or get infected, tears and perforations in the lining of the intestine or scarring of the bowel which is very painful. There is a higher likelihood for a malignancy in the bowel. Symptoms outside of the digestive tract are fever and anemia from the blood lost in the diarrhea. Arthritis is the most common symptom, however skin and eye conditions can occur as well.
Crohn’s disease is diagnosed when every layer of the intestinal wall is being affected by the disease. Originally Crohn’s was thought to only affect the small intestine but it can affect any segment of the digestive tract. Ulcerative Colitis differs in that the inflammation is usually limited to the lining of the intestine and not all the layers of the intestine. With both, there are times when the disease is in its active state and the intestinal walls are inflamed and swollen, causing symptoms and pain. There are other times when the disease is in remission and the symptoms are not active. Many patients become familiar with triggers, such as stress or food sensitivities, and change their lifestyle to reduce the active phase of the disease process. No one specific underlying cause has been identified for inflammatory bowel disease, but genetic predisposition, immune system abnormality, or infectious agents have been implicated as possible factors.
If you think you might have IBD then seek medical attention to get proper tests. A stool analysis will look for blood in the stool or any bacteria or parasites that may be causing symptoms.