Inflammatory Bowel Disease moderated by Christa Baker, RN, BSN, FNP Student
Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
What is IBD?
Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is a chronic inflammatory condition, which affects a person’s bowel. It is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. IBD is made up of two diseases. These diseases cause inflammation in a person’s intestines. Inflammation means swelling and redness. These diseases are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohns disease (CD). Although these diseases are alike, they do have some differences. The main difference is that UC affects only the large intestine or colon, and CD can affect the whole digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. CD can occur between two patches of perfectly normal tissue. Unlike CD, UC does not skip around to different areas of the bowel; the inflammation encompasses one entire section. In UC, the whole lining of the bowel becomes reddened and inflamed. This causes sores to form. These become painful and bleed which can cause blood and mucous to appear in the stool. In CD, this inflammation goes much deeper into the bowel lining than in UC. IBD is a disease of remission and exacerbation. This means that sometimes the signs and symptoms will get better and then they will flare up again.
What causes IBD?
Nobody really knows what causes it but such things as diet, genetics and environmental factors are thought to affect the disease. Sometimes an infection in the digestive tract can trigger the disease. Smoking can also irritate IBD. The disease gets turned on but it can’t get turned off which causes the problem.
How do I know if I have IBD?
Diarrhea and stomach pain are the most common signs and symptoms. Sometimes a person can go to the bathroom 20 or more times a day. This can lead to low blood pressure, a fast heartbeat and thirstiness. Sometimes the opposite happens and a person becomes constipated. This happens when a blockage occurs in the bowel. Other signs and symptoms are tiredness, high temperature, weight loss and severe pain in the stomach. If a child has this disease, he or she may not grow properly because the body cannot absorb the proper nutrients to help them develop.
How does my health care professional find out I have IBD?
IBD is hard to diagnose because a person may not have any signs and symptoms until they get really sick. Sometimes a person can also think that he or she has something else wrong with them. A health care professional will talk to them about how they are feeling, what has been happening to them, and why they have been feeling sick. This is called taking a history. Then he or she will check their stool for blood. Sometimes a person can see blood in their stool but sometimes a special test needs to be done to find out if blood is present. Then he or she may want to look inside their intestines with a scope (camera). This is called a colonoscopy, which will show the lining of the intestines to see if it is inflamed. This does not hurt and they will be given medicine, which will cause drowsiness. A person does not usually remember this test after it is done.
How is IBD treated?
There is no actual cure for IBD, but there are ways to try to control it. A person may be given medicine, which works by slowing down the inflammation process. This is called a steroid and must be taken exactly how the health care professional tells them to take it. Antibiotics are only given to a person who has complications from IBD such as an infection around their anus from going to the bathroom too much. A person who has IBD must NEVER take antidiarrheal over the counter medicines. They MUST ALWAYS consult their primary care provider before doing this because taking them could cause a blockage in their bowel. Care should also be taken when taking such medicines as Aleve and Advil as these types of over the counter medicines can make IBD worse and can cause bleeding in the bowel. If the symptoms don’t get better then surgery may have to be performed to remove some of the affected area of the bowel. This can sometimes mean that the patient will have a bag (colostomy) on their abdomen, which collects the stool and must be emptied by the patient. Although this sounds like a bad thing, it can bring great relief to the patient because they do not have to go to the bathroom all the time, they have much less pain and can lead a normal life.
A diet, which is high in fiber, can help. Also, if a person avoids spicy and dairy foods this may also help along with eating small meals. A person who has IBD should take a vitamin supplement to help them get the proper nutrients.
There are very few resources for people who live in Northeastern Pennsylvania who have IBD. If you have questions you should ask your primary healthcare provider to help you get information. People who look after people who have IBD also need help and support because this disease is very stressful to both the patient and caregiver.
There is a lot of information available “on line” if a person has access to a computer. If they don’t have one at home then a local library should be able to help. The library is also a good source of information on support groups for people who have a wide variety of diseases.
Here are some useful places that can answer your questions.
The Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America; telephone # 1-800-932-2423. This is a number available from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. This is a national organization which can answer questions about IBD and will help to find resources for people with IBD. They will send out information on these diseases to people who cannot access a computer. The web site is www.ccsa.org.
The National Foundation for Ileitis and Colitis is also a national organization which can help people find various resources who have this disease. The telephone number is 1-800-343-3637. This service is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. They will send out written information to people who ask for it. The web site is www.ccsa.org
The following web addresses have a great deal of information available on IBD.