It’s common to have some bowel troubles. Whether it was that giant cup of milk you drank when you are lactose intolerant, or the excessive amount of shellfish you had from a buffet – these have probably caused you to make more frequent trips to the washroom.
Fortunately, most bowel problems are benign: the symptoms can be treated with a change in lifestyle or diet. But if it’s over a week and you’re still experiencing diarrhoea, change in stool colour or even traces of blood in your stools, it’s time to check on your gut. You could have contracted a gastrointestinal disorder called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a medical term for chronic disorders that involve inflammation in your gut or digestive tract. Taking a closer look at IBD, it occurs when the walls of your intestines swell and for more severe cases, ulcers develop as well.
This disease is more common than you might think. An estimated number of five million people worldwide have contracted IBD, with a significant rise in the IBD rates for Asia. But fret not, IBD can be treated with a proper diagnosis and the specific medication you condition might need.
What’s the difference between Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD)?
The first step in knowing how to treat IBD is to understand which type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease you might have contracted. There are two main types of IBD: Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). Ulcerative colitis is the swelling and development of ulcers in your colon only, and it typically occurs at the innermost lining of the colon.
On the other hand, Crohn’s disease involves swelling and the presence of ulcers in other parts of your gastrointestinal tract – the passage from the mouth all the way to the anus. Apart from that, Crohn’s disease is slightly more extensive because it can affect all the layers of your intestines. The inflamed areas are also not consistent. You might find visible swelling patches next to the healthy parts of your intestinal walls.
Symptoms – how do you know if you have IBD?
The symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease are similar. At times, you might also realise that these symptoms are not regular – they come and go or worse, might become more severe if not treated. It’s best to be on the lookout for these signs if you have been suspected of contracting IBD:
- Persistent diarrhoea
- Abdominal pain
- Traces of blood in stools
- Fatigue and fever
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Inflamed skin or joints
How can you manage or even prevent IBD?
In managing the inflammation, it’s best to seek a professional doctor for a proper diagnosis. Consider a colonoscopy or CT scan for a thorough screening of your gut.
Following this, your doctor would advise on the treatment you need. Fret not, doctors usually try to give the minimum amount of medication, depending on how severe your condition might be. Going for an intestinal surgery would be the last resort, should the disease not respond to the prescribed medication.
Is it then possible to prevent IBD? Unfortunately, there are no specific types of food that have been proven to trigger the disorder. While the causes have not been found, there are known risk factors such as genetics and abnormal immune systems. Additionally, avoid smoking as it has been observed to increase the chances of Crohn’s disease.
If you’ve been experiencing the above symptoms for a prolonged period, it’s time to consult a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis. After treatment and recovery, you are likely to need long term maintenance medication – so be sure to go for regular follow up to keep your IBD struggles away.