Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a severe and prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract. It can be classified into two types: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
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Crohn’s disease v.s. Ulcerative colitis
Generally, Crohn’s disease is more severe than ulcerative colitis, with 25% of patients unable to work 1 year after diagnosis.
Crohn’s disease mainly impacts the small intestine, however, it can also affect anywhere from the mouth to the anus. In contrast, ulcerative colitis primarily affects the large intestine. Although both of them are classified under the same umbrella term of IBD, Crohn’s disease has the predominant symptoms of diarrhoea, abdominal pain and weight loss. Whereas the ulcerative colitis manifests itself as diarrhoea with blood and mucus in the stool and abdominal pain that is usually relieved by defecation.
👨⚕️Do not play doctor and assume you have IBD just because you had similar symptoms. See a doctor for clinical diagnosis. IBD can only be investigated and diagnosed through means of endoscopy, lab findings and the doctor’s clinical judgement.
Image credit: Mayo Clinic
What causes IBD?
The exact cause of IBD is unknown. However, here are the possible factors in play:
Genetic. IBD tends to run in the family. Hence, the genetic predisposition to IBD is well-established. In other words, if you experience symptoms similar to IBD, and you have a family member who was diagnosed with IBD, then it is very likely that you have IBD as well.
Diet. Although not many studies have been done to investigate how diet affects IBD outcomes, it was known that fat intake, eating fast food, milk and fibre consumption and total protein and energy intake may be associated with IBD.
Medications such as diclofenac, antibiotics and oral contraceptive pills.
Gut flora. Actions such as intake of refined carbohydrates and long-term antibiotic therapy can tip over the gut microflora, thus exacerbating IBD.
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Unfortunately, there’s no cure for IBD. Treatment for IBD aims to maintain the patient in remission as long as possible.
For mild IBD, aminosalicylates will usually be given, alongside with prebiotics, probiotics and/or sometimes, antibiotics.
Nonetheless, the majority of IBD patients will be treated with steroids for short-term if the IBD gets more severe. Certain immunomodulators would also be used if steroids don’t relieve the condition.
When IBD becomes very severe, the patient will either be given with biologics (which is very expensive) or be referred for surgery.
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