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Definition  

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is swelling and irritation of the intestines. Two forms of IBD are:

IBD is a lifelong illness.

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Causes  

The exact cause of IBD is not known. Some believe IBD may be the result of:

  • Inherited genetics—may be a family history of IBD
  • Reaction to a virus or bacteria that damages the colon and rectum
  • Compromised immune system or infection that affects the immune system
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Risk Factors  

IBD is more common in people who are Caucasian or of northern European or Jewish ancestry.

The following factors increase your chance of developing IBD:

  • Having a family member with IBD
  • Having problems with the immune system
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Symptoms  

Symptoms may be constant or occur during flare-ups. 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 such as gurgling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Joint pain
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Colonoscopy  
Colonoscope

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Diagnosis  

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images of your bodily structures may be needed. This can be done with:

Your bodily fluids and waste products may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool culture
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Treatment  

There is no cure for IBD but treatments can help control symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle Changes  

IBD symptoms may be reduced with simple dietary changes. Dietary changes may include switching to a diet that is:

Overall wellness may also play a role in reducing IBD flare-ups. Find ways to reduce stress. Get plenty of rest.

Medications  

Most medications for IBD focus on reducing the swelling and irritation. Medications include:

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

Surgery  

Surgery is not helpful for all types of IBD. For people with severe ulcerative colitis, a surgery to remove the colon may be done.

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Prevention  

Since the cause is not clear, there are no known prevention steps.