Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a complex and chronic condition that involves inflammation in the digestive system. IBD is most often characterized by abdominal pain and cramping, chronic diarrhea, and bleeding from the rectum. It is estimated that 1.6 million people in the United States are currently living with IBD and millions more around the world. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms of IBD, how it is diagnosed, and treatment options available.
Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The most common symptoms of IBD are chronic abdominal pain and cramping, along with chronic diarrhea that may include blood. Other symptoms may include loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, fever, and anemia. Some people may also experience joint pain, or mouth ulcers.
Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease is usually diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, laboratory tests, imaging tests, and endoscopy. During a physical examination, your doctor will listen to your stomach using a stethoscope to detect any unusual sounds that may indicate an inflamed intestine.
Laboratory tests used to diagnose IBD include stool tests for microscopic blood and/or white blood cells. Imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help detect inflammation of the digestive system. An endoscopy, where a thin tube with a tiny camera is inserted into the stomach, can help determine the extent of the inflammation.
Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The goal of treating IBD is to reduce inflammation in the digestive system, improve quality of life, and prevent further damage. Treatment plans are tailored to each patient and may include medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery.
Medications for IBD include anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, biologic drugs, and probiotics. Lifestyle changes may include following a special diet, quitting smoking, and reducing stress. Surgery may be necessary in some cases, depending on the severity of the condition.
Health Implications of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD is a chronic condition that can have serious health implications if left untreated. It is important to recognize the symptoms of IBD and seek medical attention to prevent the condition from worsening or leading to other health complications. Possible complications include malnutrition, growth delay, liver or gallbladder inflammation, fistulas, and colorectal cancer.
Living with IBD can be difficult, but through proper diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle changes, you can lead a healthy and active life. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about IBD.