This article was originally written by Sarah Jenkins
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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term used for a group of illnesses affecting the digestive system. With roughly one million sufferers in the United States, IBD is primarily composed of two disorders: Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
What takes place with IBD, Crohn’s, and ulcerative colitis is the body’s immune system has an exaggerated response to an unknown bacteria or condition of the bowel system, releases a large number of white blood cells to the affected area, and as a result, the area becomes drastically inflamed. This swelling causes ulcerations and injury to the bowel, as well as various other negative side effects.
Although extensive research has been done, it is unclear what causes the excessive immune response in IBD. Some believe it is the body’s mistaken identification of good bacteria in the bowel as being dangerous, while others believe it is a foreign agent that triggers the immune system, which in turn, does not shut down properly. Whatever the reason, this is a chronic condition which will continue to be a problem for sufferers for an extended period of time.
The primary difference between Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis is the location of the affected area. Crohn’s Disease may affect any portion of the digestive system and may occur in patches, with unaffected areas in between. However, Crohn’s Disease primarily affects the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. On the other hand, ulcerative colitis only affects the colon. Often, it is very difficult to determine which form of IBD a patient is suffering from and misdiagnosis is common.
Symptoms common of Irritable Bowel Disorder are diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and occasionally weight loss. These signs are often present with Crohn’s Disease, as well as uncreative colitis. As a result of blood loss, many sufferers also become anemic. This can be especially devastating to pre-existing conditions. Likewise, complications can arise from blockages that occur due to excessive bowel swelling and the presence of scar tissue. For this reason, surgery is sometimes necessary to remove damaged areas of the digestive system to avoid obstructions. There are also side effects experienced in other areas of the body in addition to the digestive system.
For the most part, IBD and Crohn’s Disease are often used interchangeably. However, it should be understood that Irritable Bowel Disorder does not necessarily translate to Crohn’s Disease. There are other forms of IBD that may affect sufferers in much the same way.