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Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

inflammatory bowel disease

In your body, the intestine is the segment of the gastrointestinal tract extending from the pyloric sphincter of the stomach to the anus. There are 2 types of intestines  –  the small intestine and the large intestine. 

A series of intestinal illnesses known together as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) result in persistent inflammation of the digestive system. The digestive tract comprises the large intestine, small intestine, stomach, oesophagus and mouth. 

IBD can be disruptive and very painful. In certain rare instances, it might even be fatal. You can manage the disease and live an active, healthy lifestyle by actively following your doctor-advised treatment plan. 

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease) is a term that describes disorders involving chronic (long-standing) inflammation of tissues in your digestive tract.

Types of IBD include:

  • Crohn’s Disease

This type of IBD is characterised by inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which often can involve the deeper layers of the digestive tract. Small intestine damage from Crohn’s disease is rather prevalent. However, it can also harm the large intestine and, less frequently, the upper gastrointestinal tract. 

  • Ulcerative Colitis

This condition involves ulcers (sores) and inflammation along the lining of your rectum and colon (large intestine). 

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis typically are characterised by weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and diarrhoea. 

For some people, IBD is only a mild illness. For others, it is a debilitating condition that can lead to life-threatening complications.

You Can Also Read: Heartburn: Causes, Symptoms & Medication

What are the Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Symptoms of IBD vary depending on the severity and location of inflammation, but they might include:

  • anaemia and weight loss, which can cause delayed development or physical growth in children
  • bloating, cramping and stomach pain due to bowel obstruction
  • bleeding ulcers, which might cause blood to show up in the stool (a condition known as hematochezia)
  • diarrhoea, which occurs when affected parts of the bowel cannot reabsorb water

People with Crohn’s disease might also get canker sores in their mouths. Sometimes fissures and ulcers also appear around the anus or genital area. 

IBD can also be associated with problems outside of the digestive system, like:

What are the Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

The exact cause of IBD is unknown, however, several factors can increase your risk of developing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

Genetics and family history 

People who have a child, sibling or parent with IBD are at a much higher risk of developing it themselves. This is why scientists believe IBD might have a genetic component. 

The immune system

The immune system might also play a role in IBD. The immune system usually defends the body from pathogens, which are organisms that cause infections and diseases. 

The immune system may react to a bacterial or viral illness of the digestive tract. The digestive tract swells with inflammation as the body attempts to create an immunological defence against the invaders. When an immune system is functioning properly, the inflammation subsides once the infection is treated.

However, individuals with IBD might have digestive tract inflammation even without an infection. The immune system attacks the body’s cells instead, which is known as an autoimmune response.

IBD can also occur when the inflammation does not go away after the infection is cured. The inflammation might continue for months or even years.


Smoking is one of the main risk factors for developing Crohn’s disease. Smoking exacerbates the discomfort and other symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It also raises the possibility of complications.

However, ulcerative colitis mainly affects former smokers and nonsmokers. 


IBD is present in all populations. However, according to research, certain ethnic groups have a higher risk of developing the condition. 


IBD can occur at any age, however, it often manifests before the age of 35.

Environmental factors

People who live in industrialised countries and urban areas have a higher risk of developing IBD. Residents of industrialised countries also tend to eat more processed food and fat, which is connected to the development of IBD. 

IBD is also more common among people living in northern climates, where it is often cold.  

Having a sedentary job or lifestyle increases the risk of IBD. The likelihood of developing IBD was lowered by physical exercise before getting sick. 


IBD tends to affect women and men equally. 

Ulcerative colitis is generally more common among men over 45 years old than it is among women of the same age range. On the other hand, Crohn’s disease is more common among women and girls over the age of 14.

You Can Also Read: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What is the Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

The different treatments for IBD include:


The initial stage of IBD treatment is anti-inflammatory medication. These medications aid in reducing digestive tract inflammation. However, they have many side effects.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications used for IBD include glucocorticoids, a subclass of corticosteroids. These drugs are available in a variety of forms, including rectal foams, injections and oral tablets. They are usually given at the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time. 
  • 5-ASA drugs (aminosalicylates) also decrease inflammation, primarily in the last part of the small intestine and in the colon.  
  • Immunomodulators might be an effective option if 5-ASA and corticosteroid drugs are not enough. They prevent the immune system from attacking the bowel and causing inflammation.
  • Biologics are genetically designed drugs that might be a choice for people with moderate to severe IBD. 

Some biologics block TNF (tumour necrosis factor). The immune system generates TNF, a molecule that causes inflammation. Excess TNF in the blood is usually blocked, but in people with IBD, higher levels of TNF can lead to more inflammation

Biologics are not available as generic drugs. But for some of these medications, there exist biosimilars, which are less expensive and have been reverse-engineered to deliver the same outcomes as biologics.

  • Antibiotics kill bacteria in the small intestine that might aggravate or trigger the symptoms of Crohn’s.
  • Laxatives and antidiarrheal medications can help keep your bowel movements regular.

 Lifestyle choices

With IBD, lifestyle decisions are crucial.

  • Quitting smoking and exercising can help preserve your health if you have IBD.
  • Avoiding triggers, like stressful situations and dairy products can help improve symptoms and reduce flare-ups.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids helps you make up for fluids lost in your stool.


Supplemental vitamins and minerals can assist with dietary deficits. For example, iron supplements can help treat anaemia. Before including any new supplements in your diet, consult your doctor.


Individuals with IBD may occasionally require surgery. Some IBD surgeries include:

  • removal of the entire rectum and colon — for severe cases of ulcerative colitis
  • removal of affected portions of the intestines (for people with Crohn’s disease)
  • removal or closure of fistulas
  • strictureplasty to widen a narrowed bowel

Given that people with IBD have a higher chance of developing colorectal cancer, your doctor will likely advise doing a regular colonoscopy to check for the disease. 


Inflammatory bowel disease comprises various intestinal disorders which cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract. This condition can be very painful and disruptive, even life-threatening in some cases. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced gastroenterologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a gastroenterologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with Dr. Mayank Madan at the CK Birla Hospital.


Can Inflammatory Bowel Disease be Cured?

Inflammatory bowel disease cannot be cured. There will be times when the illness is dormant, or in remission. Medicines can reduce inflammation and increase the length and number of periods of remission.

Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease Serious?

Although inflammatory bowel disease normally is not fatal, it is a serious disease that, in some cases, might cause life-threatening complications. See your doctor if you experience a persistent change in your bowel habits or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of this disease.

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