Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) awareness week is an excellent time to shed light on information about the illness, how it can be treated, and what to look for if you suspect you may be suffering from IBD. Going through the diagnosis and treatment process can be a challenge. Read on to learn more about inflammatory bowel disease, viable treatment options, and how to be tested.

What Exactly Is IBD?


Too many acronyms can sometimes be confusing for patients, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) very often becomes confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These diseases are very different from one another. IBD has inflammation as a root cause, and bowel tissues and the gastrointestinal tract can be damaged in a patient who has IBD. While those with IBS and IBD may experience some of the same symptoms, it’s essential to arrest symptoms in IBD so no damage is done to the body. Both conditions cause patients discomfort and pain, but the potential damage from IBD can be severe.

Inflammatory bowel disease is the culmination of two separate conditions, known as ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. It is possible for a patient to be diagnosed with just one of these diseases, but patients who experience both carry a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease.

More About UC and Crohn’s Disease


To accurately describe inflammatory bowel disease, you must first be familiar with the specifics of both UC and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis affects both the large intestine and the rectum, and if these areas are damaged, the damage may be continuous—meaning that both the large intestine and rectum may be fully inflamed and affected.

Crohn’s disease is slightly different and affects any part of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., small intestine, large intestine, colon, rectum). Instead of a continuous line of damage, Crohn’s disease inflammation can sprout up in patches, next to healthier tissue. However, Crohn’s damage can infiltrate the GI tract layers, causing severe pain and inflammation. It is easy to see why the combination of these two conditions makes for severe pain. The good news is, IBD is treatable.

Symptoms and IBD Testing


Symptoms of IBD may mimic those of IBS, so an appointment with your GI doctor is imperative as soon as possible to determine what is going on. Common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include blood in the stool, abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, and sudden weight loss or fatigue. These symptoms are also comorbid with other GI problems and conditions, so it’s best for patients to be tested to find relief.

There are several diagnostic tests to acquire the full inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis. This is one reason why awareness of IBD is so important—sometimes patients must undergo several different procedures to arrive at a definitive conclusion. The most common test for Crohn’s disease is endoscopy, while colonoscopy is utilized for ulcerative colitis. In order for doctors to get a clear idea of what is occurring in the GI tract, CT scans, MRI, and contrast radiography may also be used.

Good News About Treatment


For most patients, the symptoms of IBD are easily halted with different medications, including aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and biologics. If patients are at risk for infection, they may receive vaccinations to protect their GI tract. It is vital to catch IBD early before any part of the GI tract acquires permanent damage. In cases of damaged tissue, surgery is an option, but with early detection, medications control symptoms before damage ever occurs. To find out more about inflammatory bowel disease, awareness of the condition, or how to be tested for IBD, book an appointment today at Carolina Digestive. We offer eight different office locations as well as five endoscopy centers for our patients’ convenience.