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Disease Summary

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involves chronic inflammation of all or part of your digestive tract and usually involves severe diarrhea, pain, fatigue, and weight loss. The main causes of IBD are unknown. However, many researchers believe that IBD is caused by a combination of factors including a person’s genetic predisposition and abnormal reaction(s) of the immune system to certain bacteria in the intestines, possibly triggered by something in the environment, such as viruses, bacteria, diet, or stress. Approximately 1.4 million Americans have IBD, and 30,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

There are two main categories of inflammatory bowel disease; Crohn’s Disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC).

Crohn’s Disease (CD)
Affects all the layers of the bowel wall and involves swelling in any part of the digestive tract, which runs from the mouth to the anus. Symptoms vary according to location but include stomach pain, diarrhea, fever, weight loss and weakness.

Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
Affects the inner lining of the colon, but swelling is only found in the large intestine. Symptoms depend on the severity of the condition but usually include diarrhea and stomach pain.

Some people experience fever and weight loss. Patients with UC in the rectum may have constipation.

A third form of inflammatory bowel disease, called indeterminate colitis exists in 15 percent of cases. This form occurs when it is not clear if inflammation is due to CD or UC.

Common symptoms of IBD?

Symptoms can range from mild to severe during relapses, and they can disappear or decrease during remissions. In general, symptoms depend on the area affected.

Symptoms related to the digestive tract include:

  • Diarrhea, which may contain mucus or blood
  • Constipation
  • Pain or bleeding with bowel movement
  • Feeling the urgent need for a bowel movement
  • Abdominal pain and cramps, primarily in the right lower section of stomach or around the belly button (this symptom may be more common in ulcerative colitis)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting (this symptom may be more common in Crohn’s disease)

Symptoms outside the digestive tract include:

  • Joint aches
  • Osteoporosis
  • Eye swelling
  • Blood clots
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Liver disorder
  • Gallstones (in CD)
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Growth problems in children
  • Lack of menses in females