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Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) refer to a group of disorders that cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
The inflamed walls of the intestines may develop ulcers and, over time, may lead to serious damage of the digestive system.
IBD is estimated to affect more than 6.8 million people worldwide. It can affect anyone of any age, but occurs most commonly between the ages of 15 – 35.
Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for diseases including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
While IBS and IBD share similar symptoms, they are distinctly different gastrointestinal conditions.
IBS is a functional disorder, meaning that while its symptoms affect your quality of life, it does have a serious impact on your health. It can, however, have a significant impact on your psychological health.
Unlike IBD, there is no inflammation and no ulcers in IBS.
IBD is a disease that causes recurring inflammation and damage to the digestive tract.
It can put patients at higher risk of intestinal cancer. This may be colorectal cancer if the colon and rectum are involved, or small intestinal cancer if the small intestines are involved.
IBD is often a painful and debilitating condition. Its symptoms vary depending on the severity of inflammation and where it is located.
The common signs and symptoms of IBD include but are not limited to:
Many IBD patients tend to experience periods of flare-ups, when the disease is active and causes severe symptoms, and periods with little or no symptoms at all, when the disease is in remission after treatment.
Speak to a doctor if you experience persistent bowel problems that last longer than 1 – 2 weeks, or notice any unusual symptoms such as rectal bleeding, lethargy or loss of appetite or weight.
The exact cause of IBD is unknown.
It is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role in triggering the body's immune system to produce an inappropriate inflammatory response in the digestive tract.
Several factors are believed to increase your risk of developing IBD:
If you have IBD, you are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
IBD has also been associated with inflammation of the skin, eyes and joints, renal disease, and primary sclerosing cholangitis (a chronic liver disease that damages the bile ducts).
If IBD is left uncontrolled and not treated promptly, it can lead to serious complications such as:
There is no proven way to prevent inflammatory bowel diseases.
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