Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. Types of IBD include:
- Ulcerative colitis. This condition causes long-lasting inflammation and sores in the lining of your colon and rectum.
- Crohn's disease. This type of IBD is characterized by inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which often spreads deep into affected tissues.
Both types of IBD usually involve severe diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain and weight loss.
The NMMC Center for Digestive Health treats patients with both types of IBD. Nearly 2 million Americans are affected by this highly-disruptive disease, which causes physical and psychological distress.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s are similar in many ways and are often mistaken for each other. Making an accurate diagnosis is important so that you can receive the most effective treatment for your disease.
The gastroenterologists at NMMC provide individualized and comprehensive assessment and treatment plans.
The goal of inflammatory bowel disease treatment is to reduce the inflammation that triggers your signs and symptoms. This may lead not only to symptom relief but also to long-term remission and reduced risks of complications. IBD treatment usually involves either drug therapy or surgery.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are often the first step in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Which medication you take depends on the area of your colon that's affected.
Immune system suppressors
These medicines work to suppress the immune response that releases inflammation-inducing chemicals in the intestinal lining. For some people, a combination of these drugs works better than one drug alone.
Antibiotics may be used in addition to other medications or when infection is a concern — in cases of perianal Crohn's disease, for example.
Other medications and supplements
In addition to controlling inflammation, some medications may help relieve your signs and symptoms, but always talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications. Depending on the severity of your IBD, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
- Anti-diarrheal medications. A fiber supplement can help relieve mild to moderate diarrhea by adding bulk to your stool. For more severe diarrhea, loperamide (Imodium A-D) may be effective.
- Pain relievers. For mild pain, your doctor may recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). However, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) and diclofenac sodium (Voltaren) likely will make your symptoms worse and can make your disease worse as well.
- Iron supplements. If you have chronic intestinal bleeding, you may develop iron deficiency anemia and need to take iron supplements.
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements. Crohn's disease and steroids used to treat it can increase your risk of osteoporosis, so you may need to take a calcium supplement with added vitamin D.
Sometimes your bowel may need to rest in order reduce inflammation. In this case, your doctor may recommend a special diet given via a feeding tube (enteral nutrition) or nutrients injected into a vein (parenteral nutrition) to treat your IBD. This can also improve your overall nutrition.
If other treatments don't relieve your IBD, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Various surgeries are available to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Each surgery has risks and benefits. Your doctor will talk to you about the best option for your disease and personal goals.