Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the term used for a group of diseases and disorders that affect the intestinal tract. IBD causes the intestines to become inflamed and irritated. IBD is a lifelong illness that can be difficult to control.

IBD affects about 600,000 Americans every year. The two most common forms of of IBD are Crohn's disease]]> , ]]>irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)]]> , and ]]>ulcerative colitis]]> .

There is no pharmacologic cure for IBD, but treatments can help control symptoms. While patients may temporarily recover and not experience any symptoms, recurring flare-ups are common.

Crohn's Disease

© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.



The exact causes of IBD are unknown, but some hypotheses include:

  • Heredity—having another family member with IBD
  • Contracting a germ or infection that affects the intestinal tract
  • Compromised immune system or infection that affects the immune system

IBD is not a contagious infection, so it cannot be passed from person to person.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

The following factors increase your chance of developing IBD:

  • Having a family member with IBD
  • Being Caucasian or of northern European ancestry
  • Jewish ancestry increases the risk of certain types of IBD
  • Problems with the immune system


Symptoms depend on the type of IBD, but common symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea]]>
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Ulcers in the intestines
  • Inflammation of the rectum
  • Draining around the rectum
  • Bloating or feeling of fullness
  • Gas
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Abdominal sounds (gurgling, etc.)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Joint pain


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

  • Upper GI endoscopy]]> —a thin, lighted tube inserted down the throat to examine the upper part of the intestines
  • ]]>Colonoscopy]]> —a thin, lighted tube inserted through the rectum and into the colon to examine the lining of the colon
  • ]]>Barium enema]]> —injection of fluid into the rectum that makes your colon show up on an x-ray so the doctor can see abnormal spots in your colon
  • ]]>X-ray]]> —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones
  • ]]>Capsule endoscopy]]> —a wireless pill sized camera that you swallow
    • It takes pictures of the small intestine as it passes through your intestines.
  • Blood tests
  • Stool culture


© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.



Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle Changes

Eating a healthy diet, low in fats and rich in fruits, vegetables]]> , can control IBD symptoms. Reducing fiber and dairy products in the diet is also recommended.

Reducing stress and getting plenty of rest can also reduce symptoms and flare-ups.


Most medications for IBD focus on reducing the inflammation that causes symptoms. Medications include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immune system suppressors
  • Antibiotics to kill germs in the intestinal tract
  • Antidiarrheals
  • Laxatives
  • Pain relievers


While surgery is not helpful for all types of IBD, ]]>surgery to remove the colon]]> is an option for patients who suffer from very severe ulcerative colitis.


Because IBD is often inherited, there are no known measures that can prevent getting the disease. To prevent flare-ups, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and reduce stress.