What is IBD?
IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease causes inflammation in the digestive tract, and the main two forms of the condition are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gut, while ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine (colon).
IBD is a chronic condition, which means it is long term and cannot be cured, but it does tend to have periods when the disease is active, known as a flare up, and when it is in remission, where you will have no symptoms.
The symptoms of IBD can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, and while each person may experience symptoms differently, there are some signs to look out for.
Common IBD symptoms include:
- Repeated bouts of diarrhoea – usually mixed with mucus or blood
- Extreme tiredness
- Tummy pain and cramps
- Swelling of the stomach
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Generally feeling unwell
- Mouth ulcers
Read for a comprehensive list of the specific symptoms of IBD, and Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
If you recognise these symptoms or are worried that you have IBD, our doctors will be able to assess your situation and recommend your next steps. They can also refer you to a specialist for a confirmed diagnosis.
If you have already been diagnosed with IBD and need help managing your symptoms, our doctors can help you find a way to help ease IBD flare ups.
Our doctors will ask about your symptoms, your medical history and your bowel movements. They may also want to know if you have noticed whether anything triggers your symptoms, such as stress or certain foods.
This should help them to rule out similar health conditions, and, if they suspect it is IBD, they can refer you to a specialist for further investigation.
A gastroenterologist will refer you for specific tests, and they should then be able to confirm that you have the condition, or not, and recommend the right treatment, although diagnosis is not always quick.
For more information about what will happen during a consultation, click here.
While the exact cause of IBD is not known, there are a number of things that have been identified as possible contributing factors. These risk factors include:
- Immune system problems
- Race and ethnicity
- Environmental factors
- Taking certain medications
People with IBD tend to experience flare ups, and sometimes, these can be triggered by certain things, such as food, stress, missing medication, antibiotics or certain types of medication you are taking. This varies from person to person.
Read more about the causes for inflammatory bowel disease and what can trigger flare ups.
There isn’t currently a cure for IBS, but effective treatments are available. They are designed to reduce your symptoms, so they are manageable and stop them from flaring up – this is often referred to as maintenance treatment or therapy.
The IBD treatment that you will be prescribed will be tailored to your circumstances. You will have a dedicated team of specialists to help you, and the severity of your symptoms will be considered when looking at treatment options.
If medication, diet or lifestyle changes do not help, in some cases, surgery may be used to treat IBD.
Find out more about how IBD can be treated.
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