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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

(IBD; Regional Enteritis; Ileitis; Granulomatous Ileocolitis; Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Definition

    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is swelling and irritation of the intestines. Two forms of IBD are:
    IBD is a lifelong illness.
  • Causes

    The exact cause of IBD is not known. Some believe IBD may be the result of:
    • Inherited genetics—may be a family history of IBD
    • Reaction to a virus or bacteria that damages the colon and rectum
    • Compromised immune system or infection that affects the immune system
  • Risk Factors

    IBD is more common in people who are Caucasian or of northern European or Jewish ancestry.
    The following factors increase your chance of developing IBD:
    • Having a family member with IBD
    • Having problems with the immune system
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may be constant or occur during flare-ups. Symptoms depend on the type of IBD, but common symptoms may include:
    • Abdominal pain and cramping
    • Diarrhea
    • Weight loss and loss of appetite
    • Bleeding from the intestines
    • Ulcers in the intestines
    • Inflammation of the rectum
    • Draining around the rectum
    • Bloating or feeling of fullness
    • Gas
    • Bloody diarrhea
    • Abdominal sounds such as gurgling
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Joint pain
  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Images of your bodily structures may be needed. This can be done with:
    Your bodily fluids and waste products may be tested. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests
    • Stool culture
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  • Treatment

    There is no cure for IBD but treatments can help control symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
    Lifestyle Changes
    IBD symptoms may be reduced with simple dietary changes. Dietary changes may include switching to a diet that is:
    Overall wellness may also play a role in reducing IBD flare-ups. Find ways to reduce stress. Get plenty of rest.
    Most medications for IBD focus on reducing the swelling and irritation. Medications include:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Corticosteroids
    • Immune system suppressors
    • Antibiotics to kill germs in the intestinal tract
    • Anti-diarrhea medication
    • Laxatives
    • Pain relievers
    Surgery is not helpful for all types of IBD. For people with severe ulcerative colitis, a surgery to remove the colon may be done.
  • Prevention

    Since the cause is not clear, there are no known prevention steps.

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


    The College of Family Physicians of Canada

    Health Canada


    Botoman VA, Bonner GF, Botoman DA. Management of inflammatory bowel disease. Am Fam Physician. 1998;57(1):57-68.

    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated January 14, 2014. Accessed October 1, 2014.

    Revision Information

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