The condition of swelling and infection on either part of digestive tract or in full is known as inflammatory bowel disease. IBD is the common term used for describing Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. It may cause moderate to severe inflammation on digestive tract even on the rectum. The inner lining of the intestine gets inflamed causing ulcerative colitis. IBD can cause diarrhea and severe abdominal pain. Ulcerative colitis affects only the large intestine or colon whereas Crohn’s disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract. .Like many other diseases, IBD also show flare-ups and waning period.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis :
There would be inflammation on the area of anus or rectum which may cause rectal bleeding. This type of colitis is known as ulcerative proctitis. If the lower end of the colon and rectum are both affected it is called as sigmoid colon. Severe abdominal cramps, bloody discharge with stool, inability to pass free bowels are the symptoms of this disease. In the left sided colitis inflammation would extend from rectum to upper part of the abdomen. Another form of colitis called pancolitis affects the entire colon region causing pain and weight loss. In any type of ulcerative colitis there would be periods of remission followed by acute illness (flare ups).
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease :
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the entire GI tract starting from the mouth of the abdomen to the rectum. Some of the common symptoms of this disease are abdominal pain, moderate to severe cramps, diarrhea, and blood discharge in stool, painful sores, iron deficiency, loss of appetite and sudden weight loss. The body loses its ability to absorb nutrients extracted from food causing loss of weight. For some people it may also cause fever, inflammation of the eyes, skin problems and arthritis.
Complications of IBD :
In severe forms of inflammatory bowel disease, there can be intestinal bleeding inside causing life threatening conditions. It can cause perforation on the intestine leading to mixing of stools with blood. It can cause stricture leading to obstruction of bowel and in rare cases it can cause fistulae. It favors abnormal connection between some parts of the intestine and the skin leading to bypass of food without absorption and in some cases draining bowel contents into the skin causing abscess and severe infection. Due to painful bowel movements, anal fissures may develop. Crohn’s disease is more severe than colitis.
The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease is not known. Some doctors believe that unhealthy diet and stressful life are the major cause but there is no evidence for this theory. It can be due to weakened immunity thereby causing autoimmune disorders triggering attack of healthy cells by body’s own immune system. Scientists are of opinion that there is chance for IBD to run in families.
Risk Factors :
People may develop IBD at any age but there is increased risk for people of age group 35-50 years. It is believed to run in white people. If your parents or close relatives have this disorder then you are likely to develop this later. Smoking people have the risk of developing Crohn’s disease. Using pain relieving medications for long term can cause ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract.
The doctor will collect the medical history of the affected person and look for certain signs like infection, constipation, ulcerous growth on the anus or rectum. He would order for blood profile to detect whether it is due to infection or iron deficiency. Stool test is done to rule out whether IBD is caused due to bacteria or viruses.
Colonoscopy may be done for studying the entire colon. A thin long tube is passed through rectum with attached camera. The doctor would also collect tissue samples from the intestine to detect infection. Other tests used for detecting IBD are barium enema, sigmoidoscopy, imaging tests like CT/MRI scan and double balloon endoscopy are done to get clear picture of the intestine.
- Medications :
Since IBD is a disease causing inflammation of the intestine anti-inflammatory drugs like sulfasalazine, mesalamine, balasalazide and olsalazine are prescribed. These drugs are available both in the form of topical ointments and oral pills. Some doctors give corticosteroids for reducing inflammation. If the problem is due to autoimmune disorder your doctor may give immune suppressor drugs. Purinethol, Azasan and Imuran are fast acting immune suppressors given for reducing inflammation. Cyclosporine drugs like Neoral and Gengraf are prescribed for people who have severe form of inflammation and expecting surgery. But these drugs may have potential side effects.
Hence it is necessary to take these medications with consultation of the doctor. Infliximab is given for people who are not responding to other method of treatments. It neutralizes the protein secreted by immune system thus reducing inflammation. Adalimumab is another drug that blocks the TNF given for people with severe type of Crohn’s disease. Certolizumab pegol, methotrexate and Natalizumab are also used for treating IBD with Crohn’s syndrome.
Antibiotics are helpful for healing anal fissures and abscesses inside the intestine. Flagyl and ciprofloxacin are common drugs used for treating Crohn’s disease. For constipation laxatives are given and for arresting diarrhea Metamucil and Citrucel are prescribed. Doctors would analyze the health condition of the person wisely and use stepwise approach to give the least harmful drugs for getting maximum benefit. He would order for regular blood test for checking the levels of iron and change the course of medication. Iron supplements and Vitamin B12 shots are effective in treating anemic condition.
- Surgery :
If no other medication is effective in controlling the symptoms of IBD surgery is done for removing part of infected colon or sometimes the entire colon. Your surgeon would create a small bag at the end of your intestine for collecting stools which is then attached to the anus directly for expulsion. Corrective surgeries are done for closing fistulas and for draining abscesses. However surgery is done after considering the age, health condition and the extent of the disease.
Home Remedies :
You can start adding high fiber diet daily to get relief from obstruction of bowel and constipation. Take plenty of water and other liquids. You can consult your doctor to include various nutrients in your diet. Instead of having hefty meals take number of small meals which makes the process of digestion and absorption easy. Find out what type of food worsens the symptoms and avoid it.
Limit the use of dairy products and include plenty of fiber rich foods. Consult your doctor and dietician to plan a healthy chart for preventing weight loss. Quit smoking since it can worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. To get relief from stress, practice yoga/meditation. Alternative treatment approach is available in the form of probiotics and fish oil.