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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition that causes the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to become inflamed. More than one million Americans suffer from IBD and are faced with managing its chronic, and sometimes severe, symptoms.

Fortunately, there have been many advances in treatment and therapies for IBD to help individuals with the condition find relief.

IBD vs. IBS

Despite similar names, irritable bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are not the same condition. The primary difference is that IBD, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, causes inflammation of the digestive tract. IBS does not cause inflammation or other serious complications, such as ulcers or damage to the bowel. In contrast, IBS is a functional disorder, which means the digestive tract looks normal but does not function properly.

Types of IBD

There are two primary types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions differ in important ways, primarily:

  • Crohn’s disease – This type of IBD can cause inflammation anywhere along the GI tract, and sometimes in multiple places. Inflammation can be severe and spread deeply into the bowel wall.

  • Ulcerative colitis – Ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine and does not spread outside the bowel wall.

Learn more about the differences between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms

Symptoms of IBD can vary across individuals, depending on the location and severity of inflammation. The most common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Abdominal pain

  • Cramping

  • Bloody stool

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

Treatment Options

There are many new options to help individuals with IBD find relief. A gastroenterologist will work closely with you to diagnose and treat your condition. Treatment options may include medication, diet and lifestyle modifications and – if needed – surgery.

Medications

Medications can help treat inflammation and manage symptoms of IBD. Treatment options include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs – Your gastroenterologist may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine to help reduce inflammation of the GI tract.

  •  Immune system suppressors – Some researchers suspect the immune system attacks healthy bacteria in the GI tract, which causes chronic inflammation. Immune suppressors can help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.

  • Antibiotics – Antibiotics may be needed if your gastroenterologist is concerned about infection.

  • Over-the-counter medicine – Your gastroenterologist may also recommend over-the-counter medicine to help manage symptoms, including pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medicine, or vitamin and mineral supplements.

Diet

Eating a healthy diet, maintaining an active lifestyle and avoiding certain “trigger” foods is an important part of managing inflammation and symptoms of IBD. It’s important to note that while diet cannot cure IBD, it can help lessen the severity of symptoms and reduce the frequency of flare-ups.

Your gastroenterologist will work with you to create a healthy eating plan. He or she may refer you to a nutritionist to ensure your body gets important vitamins and nutrients. Strategies to help manage IBD may include:

  • Keep a food diary to recognize foods that cause symptoms to worsen.

  • Eat smaller meals.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Avoid high-fat and high-fiber food.

Surgery

Sometimes, surgery is needed to treat inflammation. Your gastroenterologist may discuss surgery if your IBD hasn’t responded to conservative, nonsurgical treatment approaches. There are many surgical options available depending on the type and severity of IBD you have, from advanced surgery options to minimally invasive procedures.

Surgical treatment options for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis include:

  • Intestinal resection – Surgeons remove the diseased section of the intestine and connect healthy ends of the intestines to alleviate pain and symptoms.

  • Colectomy – In very severe cases of Crohn’s the entire colon may need to be removed.

  • Protocolectomy – The rectum and part of the colon is removed.

  • Ileostomy or colostomy – When parts of or the entire colon is removed, a ileostomy or colostomy is needed to move waste through the body. The remaining end of the small intestine or part of the colon will be brought to the skin surface. An ostomy pouch covers the opening to collect stool.

  • Stricturoplasty – Scarred or narrowed portions of the intestine are opened wider to prevent bowel obstruction.

  • Minimally invasive procedures – Surgical procedures can help alleviate pain and symptoms caused by Crohn’s, including draining abscesses (infections), enteroscopy, and fissure or fistula repair.

Doctors

Temple Health’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program specializes in diagnosing, treating and managing IBD and its symptoms. Patients receive highly personalized care from board-certified gastroenterologists with extensive experience in inflammatory bowel diseases.

Our specialties include:

  • Pinpoint diagnosis – We are committed to understanding and identifying the cause, location and severity of your IBD. Our team will conduct a complete exam, including taking a detailed personal and family history. We may order additional tests, such as CT scans or colonoscopies.

  • Individualized treatment – Your team is committed to creating a treatment plan that is tailored to the location and severity of your inflammatory bowel disease. Our team will monitor your progress and condition and adjust your plan as needed.

  • Latest advances in care – Temple surgeons are leaders in minimally invasive surgery and lead the way with the newest approaches in care.

  • Clinical trials – Temple University Health is part of a leading academic center and participates in the latest research and clinical trials to advance care for inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Convenient location – The Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program is available at Temple University Hospital and Temple Health Center City. Schedule follow-up appointments and adjust treatment plans at an easy-to-reach location.

When to See a Doctor

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat inflammatory bowel disease.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program

You have access to leading-edge treatments, including new anti-inflammatory and biologic therapies that have helped our patients achieve long-term remission.

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