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All You Need To Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease

By Neha Ghosh

The prime culprit behind inflammatory bowel disease, an incurable disorder that causes abdominal pain, weight loss and diarrhoea, has been identified by the researchers. According to what has been reported in the journal Cell Reports, this discovery can also reveal a pathway to treatment. The studies imply that disrupting the function of the gene RNF5 could help in treating the disease. So, what is inflammatory bowel disease and its causes. Let' find out in this article.

What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term that represents two intestinal disorders - ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These conditions cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract.

The digestive tract comprises of the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, mouth, and oesophagus. All of these organs are responsible for breaking down food, removing the waste products and absorbing the nutrients. If inflammation occurs anywhere in the digestive tract, it disrupts the function of these organs which can be painful and life-threatening.

Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine (colon) and Crohn's disease affects the digestive system starting from the mouth to the anus. Another condition called microscopic colitis affects the colon and rectum, leading to inflammation in these organs.

Crohn's Disease: How It Affects Your Body

Causes Of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The exact cause is unknown. However, genes and problems with the immune system have been associated with IBD.

  • Genes - If you have a sibling or parent with IBD, you are more likely to get the disease and that's the reason scientists believe it's hereditary.
  • Immune system - The immune system plays a vital role in defending the body from pathogens like bacteria or virus. When these germs cause infection in the digestive tract, it triggers an immune response. In the case of IBD, there is an abnormal immune response to bacteria or other pathogens, which leads to inflammation in the gut.

Symptoms Of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Depending on the severity of inflammation, the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease may vary. The symptoms include:

  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach pain, cramps or swelling in the tummy
  • Reduced appetite

Risk Factors For Developing Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • If one of the parents have IBD, the child is at a much higher risk for developing this disease.
  • Most people who are below 30 years old are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease but, there are some people who don't develop the disease until they are in their 50s or 60s.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and diclofenac sodium are some of the medications that increase the risk of developing IBD.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease affects both the genders. Crohn's disease is more common among women and ulcerative colitis is more common among men.

Diagnosis Of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Your doctor will first ask about your family history and your bowel movements followed by some tests which include the following:

  • Stool sample and blood test are done to look out for infections and other diseases. Blood tests are also done to differentiate between ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
  • Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are some of the procedures where a camera is inserted through the anus to look at the colon. A sigmoidoscopy examines the last 20 inches of the large intestine whereas colonoscopy examines the entire length of the large intestine.
  • If the intestine is ruptured, a plain abdominal X-ray is done in emergency situations.
  • Capsule endoscopy is conducted to inspect the small intestine where the patient has to swallow a capsule containing a camera. It takes pictures while moving through the small intestine and the images are captured in a recorder that you wear on your belt. The capsule exits the body through the stool.
  • CT scan and MRI also help in the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease. CT scans are useful for examining the small intestine and MRIs are helpful in examining soft tissues and detecting fistulas.

Treatment For Inflammatory Bowel Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at first anti-inflammatory drugs like aminosalicylates, corticosteroids and immunomodulators are used to treat IBD. Patients are also required to take several vaccinations to prevent further infections. Severe cases of inflammatory bowel disease require surgery where the damaged portions of the digestive tract are removed.

Prevention Of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

IBD can't be prevented. However, you could reduce the risk of developing IBD by consuming healthy foods, exercising regularly and quitting smoking.

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