What is inflammatory bowel disease? See symptoms and more

Today is World IBD Day <i>(Image: Getty)</i>
Today is World IBD Day (Image: Getty)

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is a condition suffered by millions of people across the globe but you may be wondering what it is.

The term IBD refers to two inflammatory conditions known as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

If you've ever wondered what IBD is and the symptoms experienced by sufferers, here is everything you need to know.

What is inflammatory bowel disease or IBD?

According to the Centre for Disease Control in the United States of America, IBD refers to two inflammatory conditions called Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

These conditions are characterised by "chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract."

This "prolonged inflammation results in damage to the GI tract."

How do Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis differ?

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract (from the mouth to the anus) while ulcerative colitis occurs in the last intestine and rectum.

With Crohn's disease, the damage caused appears in patches next to healthy skin while damage is continuous when it comes to ulcerative colitis.

Finally, inflammation may make its way through multiple layers of the walls of the GI tracts while inflammation from ulcerative colitis is only present in the innermost layer of the lining of the colon.

What are the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease?

The CDC states that the following are common symptoms of IBD.

  • Persistent diarrhoea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Rectal bleeding/bloody stools

  • Weight loss

  • Fatigue

What is IBD caused by?

IBD is caused by a weakened immune system. Here are the following possible causes, according to the CDC.

"The immune system responds incorrectly to environmental triggers, such as a virus or bacteria, which causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

"There also appears to be a genetic component. Someone with a family history of IBD is more likely to develop this inappropriate immune response."