Inflammatory bowel disease is the name of a group of disorders that cause the intestines to become inflamed (red and swollen). The inflammation lasts a long time and usually comes back over and over again.
If you have inflammatory bowel disease, you may have abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhoea, weight loss and bleeding from your intestines. Two kinds of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease usually causes ulcers (open sores) along the length of the small and large intestines. Ulcerative colitis causes ulcers in the large intestine, often starting at the rectum.
Based on your symptoms, your doctor may suspect that you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Your bowel movements may be tested for germs and the presence of blood. Your doctor will probably look inside your intestines with a sigmoidoscope or a colonoscope. In these procedures, the doctor uses a narrow flexible tube to look directly inside your intestines. Special x-rays may be helpful in diagnosing this illness.
The best thing you can do is take good care of yourself. It’s important to eat a healthy diet. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may ask you to cut down on the amount of fibre in your diet. In addition to eating well, you need to get enough rest. It’s also important that you learn to manage the stress in your life. When you become overly upset by things that happen at home or at work, your intestinal problems can get worse.
You will most likely be treated by a team of doctors. This team may include your general practiotioner, a gastroenterologist and, possibly, a surgeon.
The goal of treatment is to get rid of the inflammation. Many types of medicine can reduce inflammation, including 5ASA drugs such as sulfasalazine, corticosteroids such as prednisone, and immune system suppressors such as azathioprine, mercaptopurine and methotrexate. An antibiotic, such as metronidazole, may also be helpful for killing germs in the intestines, especially if you have Crohn’s disease.
It is important to talk to your doctor before taking any over the counter medicine on your own. Your body may not be able to handle the effects of medicine. If you have severe symptoms, such as diarrhoea, fever or vomiting, you may need to go to the hospital to be treated with special fluids and medicines that must be given intravenously (in your veins).
If your ulcerative colitis becomes so severe that it can’t be helped by medicines, it may be necessary to remove part of your small or large intestines surgically.