Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of conditions that cause chronic inflammation in the gut and can lead to tissue damage. The two most common conditions are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Below, we asked our experts from Digestive Disease Consultants of Orange County to explain how IBD manifests itself and what happens if it’s left untreated. With offices throughout Orange County, California, our team is ready to help anyone suffering from IBD or suspects they may have it.
The difference between IBD and IBS
Despite sharing some similarities (both can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain), IBD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are two different disorders of the digestive system.
With IBS, the bowel doesn’t function optimally, but there’s no structural damage to the digestive system. Therefore, IBS is significantly less damaging than IBD.
On the other hand, IBD is caused by an inappropriate immune response that leads to inflammation. The damage done by IBD is visible via imaging techniques, and it can cause serious complications.
Understanding Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are characterized by an abnormal immune response. The immune system mistakes food particles and the body’s own cells for dangerous bacteria, so it attacks the body’s tissues. These immune responses cause inflammation and structural damage to the intestines.
When you have ulcerative colitis, the abnormal immune response causes ulcers on the lining of your large intestine and rectum. These sores can bleed and secrete mucus. The main symptoms of ulcerative colitis are diarrhea and rectal bleeding.
Crohn’s disease can affect the entire digestive system, from the mouth to the anus, and the inflammation goes beyond the inner lining of the mucosa, damaging the bowel wall. Symptoms include weight loss, poor appetite, mouth sores, diarrhea, fever, tiredness, and abdominal cramps.
Treatments available for IBD
To reduce inflammation due to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, specialists may recommend steroids or immune suppressors.
If you have severe IBD, you may need surgery to remove the tissues affected by inflammation. To help you manage the symptoms, your doctor may also recommend painkillers, diarrhea medications, and iron supplements.
What happens if IBD is left untreated
IBD isn’t fatal. However, it can affect your quality of life, and when left untreated, it may lead to life-threatening complications, including the following:
- Delayed growth in children
- Poor bone density
- Liver and kidney disease
- Intestinal swelling
- Tears in the large intestine
- Skin inflammation
- Eye inflammation
- Bowel cancer
If you suspect you have IBD, contact us to schedule an appointment. Get quick relief for your symptoms and prevent complications.