Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is mainly used as a way to describe two separate conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and both of these are chronic (long-term) conditions involving gut inflammation (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract).

Crohn’s disease can impact the entire digestive system (which runs from your mouth to your anus), whereas ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine (the colon).

It is often difficult to differentiate between the two main IBD types and when this is the case, it is then called ‘indeterminate’ colitis.

Other, less common IBD types exist known as collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis. Inflammation with these IBD types can only be seen with a microscope, and thus they are called ‘microscopic’ colitis.


What are the symptoms of IBD?

The key symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are fairly similar and include:

  • Weight loss
  • Swelling, cramping or pain in the stomach
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Recurring diarrhoea or bloody diarrhoea

Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Some IBD sufferers also experience further symptoms such as vomiting, a high temperature (a fever) and anaemia.

IBD symptoms can also come and go with flare-ups (periods with severe symptoms) and then long periods with few/no symptoms (called ‘remission’).


What causes IBD?

The precise cause/s of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are unclear, with several factors thought to perhaps play their part:

  • Genetic factors: scientific evidence shows that IBD is more likely in those having a close relative with IBD
  • Immune-system disruption (your body’s ability to fight infections is disrupted): here, inflammation might be caused by your immune system attacking your own healthy tissue inside your digestive tract when fighting off viral or bacterial infections


IBD treatment at your IPSA clinic

At your IPSA clinic, you will be seen by an IPSA specialist in IBD. After a full consultation in IPSA’s conducive and confidential setting, your IPSA practitioner will run through the various treatment options with you, as there is currently not yet a cure for either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The treatment offered will aim to relieve your IBD symptoms and prevent these symptoms from returning. Your IPSA specialist will discuss the various approaches to IBD with you.

Mild ulcerative colitis might not require any treatment as your symptoms often clear up in just a few days.

There are medications for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, including those that act by reducing inflammation (aminosalicylates), or if your inflammation is severe, corticosteroids, and medications that reduce immune-system activity (called immunosuppressants).

However, about 20% of ulcerative colitis sufferers do have severe symptoms which often will not respond to any forms of medication, and in these cases, surgical removal of the area of the inflamed digestive system might be required.

From 60 to 75% of those with Crohn’s disease require surgery. This is to repair any damage to their digestive systems and to treat the complications arising from the condition.


Who is affected by IBD?

IBD is thought to affect one in every 250 people in the UK with 146,000 ulcerative colitis and 115,000 Crohn’s cases across the UK.

IBD is usually first diagnosed in the late teens/early 20s, with women and men equally affected, but IBD can affect you at any age.

IBD is more usual in white people than in Asian or black people, with those from Eastern European Jewish backgrounds being most likely to suffer from IBD.


To book you same-day IBD consultation with your IPSA IBD clinician, simply book online or call your nearest IPSA Clinic.


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