What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Diagnosis
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD?
Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is defined as the chronic inflammation of the whole intestine/digestive section or only a part of the tract.
Patients suffering from the inflammatory bowel disease or IBD will get affected with crohn's disease and/or ulcerative colitis. The symptoms of both of these diseases are similar and include diarrhea, fatigue, loss of weight and severe pain in the abdomen. Moreover, inflammatory bowel disease or IBD can snowball into the life-threatening situations.
Ulcerative colitis causes chronic inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine. The infection could also spread to the rectum.
Crohn's disease belongs to the category of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD that can infect the digestive tract lining however it penetrates deeply into the tissues. It not only affects the large intestine but sometimes also the smaller intestines.
Collagenous colitis along with the dreaded lymphocytic colitis to fall into the category of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD but they do not form the part of the classic inflammatory bowel disease or IBD and considered separately.
What is the Cause of Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD?
There are many causes for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD but the precise cause is still not known.
- Diet along with undue stress is considered to be the triggers that can make the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD worse but cannot be considered the primary cause of inflammatory bowel disease.
- Another possible cause of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is the defective immunity of the human body. The defense mechanism can act abnormally and cause infection in the intestines. It becomes aggressive and tries to destroy the tissues located in the digestive tract.
- Genetic issues also seem to cause inflammatory bowel disease or IBD but only a minuscule portion of the people has past family history of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD?
Multiple signs and symptoms are seen in inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD manifests itself in the body with inflammation of various degrees ranging from severe to mild. It can be also followed by remission. Some of the common signs and symptoms of crohn's disease along with ulcerative colitis are as follows:
- Unexplained diarrhea that can become quite severe is a common symptom of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
- Fatigue along with low grade fever is also seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
- Severe pain in the abdomen and painful cramps that are caused due to the perforations in the digestive tract. Food particles get stuck in the intestine causing above mentioned symptoms.
- The stool might contain blood. Either you can see blood droplets or the stool would be dark. Occult blood or invisible blood might also be present and is a symptom of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
- Inflammation leads to the reduction is appetite and it may also cause cramps in the abdomen.
- Unexplained weight loss with decreased appetite and severe nausea is seen in inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
What are the Risk Factors for Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD?
The following are the risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD:
- Generally, people with 30 years of age get affected by inflammatory bowel disease or IBD; however, the symptoms are visible in people with 50 or more years of age.
- Race or ethnicity. Ethnic white people are at most risk to contact inflammatory bowel disease or IBD but it can happen to anyone.
- Family history of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is a risk factor. People can contact the disease if they have an old family history.
- Cigarette smoking can increase the risk of contacting the crohn's disease type of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD; however smoking could block the spread of ulcerative colitis. In a nutshell, smoking should be left as quickly as possible to get impeccable long-term benefits.
- Isotretinoin use. The majority of people use this medicine to cure the instances of cystic acne. According to researchers, it can be a risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD, however, no proper correlation has been established so far.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Ibuprofen along with naproxen sodium is known to cause the spread of infections in the intestine resulting in risk for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. Diclofenac sodium should not be taken in excessive quantity as it can become a trigger for the disease.
- People living in urban areas are exposed to harmful pollutants; therefore, they are at increased risk of contracting inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
- In addition, fast food with lots of fat content can cause intestinal infection leading to ulcerative colitis and crohn disease.
What are the Complications of Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD?
The complications of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD are many. Below mentioned are the complications of crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis separately:
Some of the complications because of the onset of crohn's diseases are as follows:
- Inflammation is a complication in crohn's disease. The bowel wall would catch inflammation resulting in severe instances of diarrhea. It can also lead to bleeding in the stool. Narrowing of the intestines or the spread of the infection to the fistula might also occur.
- Bowel obstruction is another complication in crohn's disease. Crohn's disease can lead to the thickening of the intestinal walls due to perforations over a period of time. As the thickness of the small and large intestine increases, it would block the flood of the food through the digestive tract. In many cases, doctors need to perform surgery on the bowel to eliminate the diseased obstruction.
- Ulcers formation is a possible complication in crohn's disease. Chronic inflammation is the chief cause of ulcers that can appear in the mouth, digestive tract or even rectum. It can create problems in the genital area as well.
- Another complication in crohn's disease is fistulas. They are structures mainly occurring on the intestinal wall. Fistulas are known to connect the walls to the other organs of the body abnormally. In addition, they are majorly found in the anal region and tend to cause pain as well as cramps. Fistulas occurring in the abdomen could cause problems for the absorption of the food in the digestive tract. It might appear also in the numerous loops formed by bowels. Moreover, some patients have reported the formation of the fistulas in the urinary bladder and it can also spill over into the vagina. Transformation of fistula into a chronic abscess might result into a fatal infection if not treated early.
- Anal fissure is a complication in crohn's disease. Wear and tear of the tissue on the anal skin could lead to infection. Bowel movement would face obstruction and subsequent pain resulting in the formation of the perianal fistula.
- Malnutrition is a complication in crohn's disease. Diarrhea followed by abdominal pain could lead to digestion issues. Therefore, the body would not be able to absorb the nutrients. Patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease or IBD may face the issues of malnutrition accompanied by the drop in the levels of iron and vitamin in the blood.
- Colon cancer is a likely complication in crohn's disease. People suffering from crohn's disease are increasingly exposed to the risk of cancer. Patients should undergo colonoscopy test after every 2 years. People who are not suffering from crohn's disease are at a lesser risk of cancer. They might need the tests after 10 years. The probability of infection spreading to other parts of the body is far less. The ideal age for colonoscopy is 50 years.
- Crohn's disease in inflammatory bowel disease could also metamorphose into problems affecting joints and also inflammation of the liver. It would go a long way in infecting the bile ducts. Kids suffering from the disease will face the problems of growth accompanied by delayed sexual development.
- Medications can complicate crohn's illness in inflammatory bowel disease. Medicines that are required to treat the disease are known to hamper the capabilities of the immune system. Therefore, people are prone to cancer and other types of life-threatening diseases such as lymphoma. Corticosteroids are known to cause osteoporosis along with bone fractures and glaucoma. It is important to consult the doctor before consuming medications.
Complications of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD arising out of ulcerative colitis are as follows:
- Acute bleeding is a complication in ulcerative colitis.
- Numerous perforations along the walls of the colon are a possible complication in ulcerative colitis.
- Acute dehydration.
- Osteoporosis is a complication in ulcerative colitis.
- Skin along with eyes can be affected by inflammation.
- Mouth ulcers are a likely complication in ulcerative colitis.
- Vulnerabilities to the occurrence of cancer in colon are a complication in ulcerative colitis.
- Clotting in arteries and veins are likely complications in ulcerative colitis.
What Tests are Conducted to Diagnose Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD?
The medical consultant will test the patient for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD along with ischemic colitis or even colon cancer before zeroing in on the option of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. There are numerous testing procedures that have to be followed meticulously in an impeccable manner.
Blood Tests to Diagnose Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD
- Tests for anemia or infection are conducted to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. Red blood cells counts are checked to detect bleeding in the stool. It is important to assess the extent of the damages to the intestine. Loss of blood cells can cause anemia.
- Fecal occult blood test to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. Stool sample has to be checked to find the traces of blood.
Endoscopic Methods to Diagnose Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD
- Colonoscopy test is conducted to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. A Tube which is attached to the camera is inserted into the colon. It captures images of the colon and assesses the extent of the damage to the intestines. Doctors might also conduct the biopsy by carving out the tissues. It will help to diagnose the disease in an impeccable manner. If granulomas are found in the biopsy, it is a sure shot confirmation of crohn's disease.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy is another test to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. The lighter tube is vital to analyze the infection in the lower part of the colon. It is termed as sigmoid.
- Upper endoscopy is a test for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. The test is carried out to check the infection in the upper portion of the small intestine. The slender tube along with the camera is slid into the esophagus to the stomach. Detailed images are captured so that doctors can rule out infection in the area. Patients are advised test if they feel nausea accompanied by pain in the abdomen.
- Capsule endoscopy for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD involves capsule with the camera is consumed by the patient and it transmits the images of the colons and the stomach to the computer attached to the belt of the patient. Rather than using the tube, capsule endoscopy for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is a noninvasive and hassle free process. The capsule is later on discharged through the stool. The test along with endoscopy helps in detecting crohn's disease.
- Double balloon endoscopy for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is used to detect infection in the smaller bowels. Normal endoscopy cannot find the problem but the abnormalities are reported by the camera attached capsule.
Imaging Procedures for Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD
- X-ray for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. To check the perforation is colons, the doctors use X-ray imaging technique. It analyzes the abdomen to rule out serious diseases.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans for diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. CT scan goes a long way in providing detailed images of the bowels which otherwise is not visible by conventional endoscopy. Tissues inside and the outside of the bowels are thoroughly examined through the scanned images. It would go a long way in arriving at the correct diagnosis. CT scan is quite efficient and has replaced the barium-based scans.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. MRI combines the technology of the magnetic field and the impeccable radio waves to analyze the organs including the bowels and tissues in a detailed manner. It is advised by the doctor to rule out the possibility of the occurrence of fistula in the anal and the colon region. In comparison to CT scans, MRI does not expose patients to radiations.
- Small bowel imaging tests to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is the technique to check the infection in the small intestine which cannot be examined using the colonoscopy technique. Under the test, you might have to consume barium liquid for advanced imaging however the technique is replaced by MRI or CT scan.