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What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe a series of conditions that create chronic inflammation in part or all of the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the most common conditions known under this umbrella term. The inflammation characteristic of inflammatory bowel disease can cause a variety of painful and uncomfortable symptoms that can interfere with your daily life and routine. At Digestive Healthcare Center, our gastroenterologists in NJ are highly experienced in diagnosing IBD and helping patients to manage this condition. 

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a condition that causes chronic inflammation, forcing the colon to empty frequently and resulting in diarrhea. Cells from the lining of the colon slough off in the process, creating tiny open sores known as ulcers. The ulcers cause pus, mucus, and bleeding. Ulcerative colitis occurs most frequently in patients between 15 and 40 years of age (though children and patients over 50 may develop it as well).

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease in which inflammation occurs in sections of the large and small intestines that spread into affected tissues. The inflammation is the result of the body’s immune system recognizing the cells in the digestive tract as a foreign body and attacking them. While the causes are unknown, it is believed that those with a family history of the condition have an increased risk of developing it. Crohn’s disease shares many symptoms with ulcerative colitis and the severity of symptoms hinges upon the severity of inflammation.

The causes of IBD are unknown. While it was once believed that stress and diet were the causes, it is now shown that these factors aggravate but do not cause IBD. One possible cause of IBD is a malfunction of the immune system, causing abnormal immune responses to attack the cells in the digestive tract. Inflammatory bowel disease is also more common in people who have family members with the disease.

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease can range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the inflammation and where in the gastrointestinal tract it occurs. Those affected by IBD tend to have periods of active illness and discomfort followed by a reduction in symptoms. Common symptoms of IBD include:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Blood in the stool/rectal bleeding
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unintended weight loss

The way IBD gets diagnosed depends on the type of IBD that is present. However, commonly used tests for diagnosis include endoscopy, colonoscopy, imaging studies (MRI, CT), and an analysis of the stool and/or blood. Blood tests check for anemia or signs of infection, which could confirm that another condition is present.

Though there is no cure for IBD, symptoms can be managed by controlling the inflammation. It may be recommended to begin with milder drugs and move to stronger ones or start stronger and move to milder drugs, depending on individual needs.

Medicinal treatments for the disease include:

  • 5-ASA anti-inflammatories (e.g., aminosalicylates and corticosteroids)
  • Biologics such as adalimumab (Humira®) and infliximab (Remicade®)
  • Immune system suppressors like azathioprine and mercaptopurine

Medications to manage symptoms include:

  • Antibiotics such as metronidazole and ciprofloxacin
  • Other medications such as anti-diarrheal and acetaminophen for pain

In addition, lifestyle changes may help control symptoms. These include:

  • Dietary changes
  • Smoking cessation
  • Stress reduction

If all other conservative methods of treatment have failed, surgery may be necessary. Surgical procedures differ depending upon the type of IBD that is present.

Diagnosis and Treatment of IBD in NJ at Digestive Healthcare Center

Whether you are experiencing symptoms of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, our physicians will work to reach an accurate diagnosis and craft a personalized treatment plan for you. We will ensure that all of your questions about your condition and treatment options are answered, whether you visit us in person or via a virtual telemedicine visit. To learn more about our gastroenterology services in NJ or to request an appointment, please contact us today.

Care for Common Digestive Health Conditions in NJ at DHC

At Digestive Healthcare Center, we are proud to provide top-quality gastroenterology care to patients throughout NJ. Whether you have been living with a digestive health condition for years or have been experiencing new symptoms that cause you discomfort or concern, our team is here to help you get on track to healthier and more comfortable living.