Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – Symptoms and Causes

What is inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) represents a group of intestinal disorders that leads to long term inflammation of the digestive tract.

The digestive tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. It’s responsible for break down of food, absorption of the nutrients, and removing any undugested material and waste products.

Inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract disturbs its normal function. IBD can be very painful and severe, and in some cases, it may even be life-threatening.

This article help you know all about Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including the types, its causes  complications, and more.

What are the main types of inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term which includes many diseases. The two most common diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease can leads to inflammation in any part of the digestive tract. However, it usually affects the tail end of the small intestine.

In ulcerative colitis, inflammation occurs in the large intestine.

What causes inflammatory bowel disease?

The accurate cause of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not clear. However, genetics and problems with the immune system have been related to IBD.


You might have a high risk to develop IBD if you have a sibling or parent with this disease. Because of this, scientists believe IBD may have a genetic component.

The immune system

The immune system may also have a role in IBD.

Normally, the immune system protects the body from pathogens (organisms that cause diseases and infections). A bacterial or viral infection of the digestive tract can stimulate an immune response.

As the body tries to fight off the invaders, the digestive tract becomes inflamed. When the infection is gone, the inflammation also subsides. That’s a healthy response.

In people with IBD, however, digestive tract inflammation can occur even when there’s no infection. The immune system attacks the body’s own cells instead. This is called an autoimmune response.

IBD can also happen when the inflammation doesn’t subsides after the infection is cured. The inflammation may lasts for months or even years.

Risk factors for developing inflammatory bowel disease?

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) estimates that 1.6 million people in the United States have inflammatory bowel disease.

The largest risk factors for developing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis include:


Smoking is one of the major risk factors for developing Crohn’s disease.

Smoking also intensifies the pain and other symptoms of Crohn’s disease and increases the risk of complications. Although, ulcerative colitis mainly affects nonsmokers and ex-smokers.


IBD is present in all populations. However, certain ethnic groups such as Caucasians and Ashkenazi Jews are at higher risk.


IBD can occur at any age, but in majority of cases, it begins before the age of 35.

Family history

People who have a parent, sibling, or child with IBD are at a higher risk for developing it themselves.

Geographical region

People living in urban areas and industrialized countries are at higher risk of developing IBD.

Those with white collar jobs are also have higher rate to get the disease. This can be partly explained by lifestyle choices and diet.

People who live in industrialized countries inclined to eat more fat and processed food. IBD is also more common among people living in northern climates, where it’s usually cold.


Generally, IBD affects both men and women equally. Ulcerative colitis is more common among men, while Crohn’s disease is more common among women.

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease?

Symptoms of IBD vary depending on the location and severity of inflammation, but they may have following symptoms:

People having Crohn’s disease may also get canker sores in their mouths. Sometimes ulcers and fissures also develop around the genital area or anus.

IBD can also be related to problems outside of the digestive system, such as:

What are the possible complications of inflammatory bowel disease?

Possible complications of IBD include:

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

How is inflammatory bowel disease diagnosed?

To diagnose IBD, your doctor will first ask you questions about the medical history of your family and your bowel movements.

After performing physical exam, your doctor may order one or more diagnostic tests.

Stool sample and blood test

These tests can be used to check infections and other diseases.

Blood tests can also sometimes be used to differentiate between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. However,only blood tests can’t be used to diagnose IBD.

Barium enema

barium enema is an X-ray examination of the colon and small intestine. In the past, usually this type of test was used, but now it is replaced by wide range of other tests.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy

In these procedures, a camera is attached on the end of a thin, flexible probe to examine the colon.

The camera is inserted through the anus. It allows your doctor to check for ulcers, fistulas, and any other damage in the rectum and colon.

colonoscopy can examine the complete length of the large intestine. A sigmoidoscopy examines only the last 20 inches of the large intestine which is the sigmoid colon.

In these procedures, a small sample of the bowel wall will sometimes be taken. This is called a biopsy. Examining this biopsy under the microscope can help to diagnose IBD.

Capsule endoscopy

This test checks the small intestine, which is more difficult to examine than the large intestine. For the test, you swallow a small capsule containing a camera.

As it moves through your small intestine, it takes images. Once you’ve released the camera in your stool, the images can be seen on a computer.

This test is only used when other tests have failed to determine the reason behind Crohn’s disease symptoms.

Plain film or X-ray

A plain abdominal X-ray is used in urgent conditions where intestine rupture is suspected.

Computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

CT scans are primarily computerized X-rays. They create a more detailed picture than a standard X-ray. This makes them useful for inspecting the small intestine. They can also detect complications of IBD.

MRIs use magnetic fields to create pictures of the body. They’re safer than X-rays. MRIs are particularly helpful in inspecting soft tissues and detecting fistulas.

Both MRIs and CT scans can be used to find out how much of the intestine is affected by IBD.

How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?

There are various treatments for IBD.


Anti-inflammatory drugs are the first choice for IBD treatment. These drugs reduce inflammation of the digestive tract. However, they have various side effects.

Anti-inflammatory drugs used for IBD include standard-dose  aminosalycylates such as mesalamine, sulfasalazine and its byproducts, and corticosteroids.

Immune suppressants (or immunomodulators) prevent the occurance of inflammation by preventing immune system from attacking the bowel .

This group includes drugs that block TNF(tumor necrotic factor). TNF is a inflammatory mediator produced by the immune system that causes inflammation. Excess TNF in the blood is normally blocked, but in people with IBD, increased levels of TNF can cause more inflammation.

Another medication, tofacitinib (Xeljanz), is a newer option that works in a different way to lower inflammation.

Immune suppressants can have various side effects, including rashes and infections.

Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria that may trigger or irritate IBD symptoms.

Antidiarrheal drugs and laxatives can also be helpful in treating IBD symptoms.

Buy laxatives now.

Lifestyle choices

Lifestyle choices have a important role when you have IBD.

Drinking lots of fluids helps to compensate for those lost in your stool. Avoiding dairy products and stressful conditions also improves symptoms.

Regular exercise and avoiding smoking can further improve your health.


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

Consult your doctor before having any new supplements to your diet. Get iron supplements online.


Surgery can sometimes be essential for people having IBD. Some IBD surgeries include:

  • strictureplasty to open up a narrowed bowel
  • closure or removal of fistulas
  • removal of affected portions of the intestines, for people having Crohn’s disease
  • complete removal of the colon and rectum, in severe cases of ulcerative colitis

Routine colonoscopy is used to examine for colon cancer, since those with IBD have a more risk of getting it.

How can inflammatory bowel disease be prevented?

The genetic causes of IBD can’t be prevented. However, you may be able lower your risk of getting IBD or prevent a relapse by:

IBD can lead to some discomfort, but there are some ways you can control the disease and still live a healthy, normal lifestyle.


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