Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The digestive system (including the stomach, large and small intestines, and rectum) converts food into nutrients and absorbs them into the bloodstream to fuel our bodies. We seldom notice its workings unless something goes wrong, as in the case of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Up to 1 million Americans are thought to have IBD, which occurs most often in those ages 15 to 30, but can affect younger kids and older people. Most cases are reported in western Europe and North America.
About Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (which is not the same thing as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS) refers to two chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the intestines: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Although the diseases have some features in common, there are some important differences.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease of the large intestine, or colon. In ulcerative colitis, the inner lining (mucosa) of the intestine becomes inflamed (red and swollen) and develops ulcers (open, painful wounds). Ulcerative colitis is often the most severe in the rectal area, which can cause frequent diarrhea. Mucus and blood often appear in the stool (feces or poop) if the lining of the colon is damaged
Crohn's disease differs from ulcerative colitis in the areas of the bowel it involves — it most commonly affects the last part of the small intestine (called the terminal ileum) and parts of the large intestine. However, it isn't limited to these areas and can attack any part of the digestive tract. Crohn's disease causes inflammation that extends much deeper into the layers of the intestinal wall and generally tends to involve the entire bowel wall, whereas ulcerative colitis affects only the lining of the bowel.
Causes of IBD
Research isn't conclusive on the causes inflammatory bowel disease, but experts believe that many factors might be involved, including the environment, diet, and genetics.
Current evidence suggests that in people with IBD, a genetic defect affects how the immune system works and how inflammation is triggered in response to an offending agent, like bacteria, a virus, or a protein in food. The evidence also indicates that smoking can enhance the likelihood of developing Crohn's disease.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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