Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe a group of disorders that affect the intestines. The different varieties of IBD can cause irritation, tenderness, and damage to the intestinal lining, often resulting in serious discomfort and debilitating symptoms.

More than 600,000 Americans develop some type of inflammatory bowel disease every year. Though IBD is a chronic condition, treatment can help to control inflammation, reduce symptoms and lead to a long-term remission of IBD.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Though the root cause of IBD is not known, the problem stems from an allergic reaction that seems to take place in the intestinal wall. Cells begin to create antibodies to attack other cells, creating a chain of events that leads to inflammation and uncomfortable symptoms. For all forms of inflammatory bowel disease, symptoms tend to develop slowly over time.

The most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease are:

Crohn’s Disease

This form of IBD can cause inflammation in any part of your digestive tract and may occur in different areas for different people. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Cramping and abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Fatigue
  • Ulcers
  • Diminished appetite
  • Unexpected weight loss

The severity of these symptoms can vary and treatment for Crohn’s disease depends on the stage of the condition.

Ulcerative Colitis

Unlike Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis typically occurs only in the lining of the large intestine and rectum and may have long-term effects on a continuous part of the colon.

Ulcerative colitis is categorized based on the location of the inflammation. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are very similar to those of Crohn’s disease, but the symptoms experienced and their intensity varies based on the location of inflammation in the digestive tract.


This inflammatory bowel disease develops in the lining of the rectum, which is the end of the colon. Proctitis may develop alongside other inflammatory bowel diseases or result from sexually transmitted diseases or radiation therapy.

The symptoms of proctitis are similar to those of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, but pain may be more present in the rectal area or left side of the abdomen. Proctitis often results in tenesmus, which causes you to frequently or constantly feel that you need to move your bowels.

Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Examination of the rectum and lower colon in the physician’s office is the simplest way to detect this disorder, but this method is only helpful if the rectum is involved in the inflammatory process.

If other areas of the intestine are involved, barium x-rays may be used. This can be either barium enema (lower GI series) for examination of the colon or an upper GI series for examination of the stomach and small intestine.

Colonoscopy is another method of diagnosis and involves the use of a long flexible instrument to examine the entire large intestine. Tests of the blood and stool are also of value in some cases, but these tests are more helpful in following the progress of IBD treatment rather than in its detection.

Treatment Options for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Treatment for IBD typically begins with conservative measures and lifestyle changes. Because some foods may exacerbate the symptoms of IBD, it may be recommended to avoid specific foods, but a balanced diet is considered more important than focusing on particular dietary restrictions. Medication may also be used to reduce inflammation.

When conservative measures prove ineffective, operative intervention may be necessary. Surgery is sometimes needed to remove portions of the intestine that have experienced severe and continuous inflammation, scarring, obstruction, or infection.

To learn more about inflammatory bowel disease and treatment options available in Beverly Hills or Culver City, contact LA Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates today.

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