Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is swelling and irritation of the intestines (bowel). Two forms of IBD are:
IBD is a lifelong illness.
The exact cause is not known. It is the result of a problem with the immune system. Genetics may also play a role.
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- Having a family member with IBD
- Having problems with the immune system
Symptoms may happen all the time or they may come and go. Symptoms depend on the type of IBD, but common problems are:
- Belly pain and cramping
- Belly sounds such as gurgling
- Bloating or feeling of fullness
- Loose stools
- Blood in stools
- Nausea and vomiting
- Joint pain
- Weight loss and lack of hunger
- Swelling of the rectum
- Draining around the rectum
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Blood and stool tests may also be done.
Images may need to be taken. This can be done with:
A colonoscopy may be done. A long, flexible tube will be inserted through the rectum to inspect the intestines.
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There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Choices are:
Dietary changes may include switching to a diet that is:
- Low in fat
- Rich in fruits and vegetables
- Low in fiber and dairy products
Medicines may be given, such as:
- Pain relievers
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Corticosteroids to ease swelling
- Immune system suppressors
- Antibiotics to kill germs in the intestinal tract
- Anti-diarrheal medicine
- Laxatives to help stool pass more easily
Surgery is not helpful for all types of IBD. People with severe ulcerative colitis may need surgery to remove the colon.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://www.familydoctor.org
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases https://www.niddk.nih.gov
College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Crohn disease in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/crohn-disease-in-adults. Accessed February 10, 2021.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ibd. Accessed February 10, 2021.
Lichtenstein GR, Loftus EV, et al. ACG Clinical Guideline: Management of Crohn's Disease in Adults. Am J Gastroenterol. 2018 Apr;113(4):481-517.
Ulcerative colitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ulcerative-colitis-in-adults. Accessed February 10, 2021.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
- Review Date: 12/2020
- Update Date: 02/10/2021