Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?

IBD is a group of diseases which cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The main types are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
The cause of IBD is still unclear but is probably due to immune, genetic, environmental and possibly infectious factors. IBD is not caused solely by diet or allergies to certain foods, stress or just due to an infection.

IBD can develop in people at any age, however many people present when they are 15-30 years old and some not until their later life.

Symptoms of IBD include diarrhoea often with bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss and tiredness. The severity of symptoms can be quite variable and may become more severe (flare) and then settle down with periods of no symptoms (remission).

Crohn's Disease
Crohn's Disease

Treatment for IBD

Treatment varies with how severe the illness is and what part of the bowel is affected. Treatments are used both to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life in the short term and also to reduce long term complications and consequences of the disease.

Medications are the main-stay of treatment although other treatments including surgery may sometimes be required. Whilst all medications have a risk of side-effects, many people will not experience any side effects from treatment. In making treatment decisions, your doctor will weigh up the individual risks of treatment against the risks of no treatment (including symptoms and potential complications of your disease). The decision on which treatments to use is tailored to your individual circumstances.

Many medications used in the treatment of IBD have been available for many years and their effectiveness as well as side effects are very well understood.

There is a lot of ongoing research into newer treatments and a number have become available in recent years and more are expected to reach the market soon. These biological agents are synthetic molecules that target parts of the inflammatory response implicated in the inflammatory processes of IBD. The arrival of biological medications is one of the most exciting developments in the treatment of IBD over recent years. These drugs have changed the management, especially for patients with more severe inflammation.

Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative Colitis