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:
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
There are no current guidelines to prevent this health problem.
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.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 2/10/2021