Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term that refers to a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine. The most common IBDs are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease can involve any part of the digestive tract while ulcerative colitis generally affects the colon. 

At Yale Colon & Rectal Surgery, our innovative surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures, many of which are at the leading edge of gastrointestinal surgery, to treat IBD. Our multidisciplinary team works collectively to create personalized treatment plans that provide the best options for each patient, reflecting his or her specific condition and individual needs.

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Researchers do not yet know what causes inflammatory bowel disease, though it is most likely an immune response. An unknown factor causes an immune reaction of the body against the intestinal tissue, causing the tissue to become swollen and irritated.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases the chance of developing a disease. There seems to be a genetic predisposition to developing IBD, as 30 percent of patients with Crohn’s disease have a specific gene mutation. 

Other risk factors include: 

  • Environment: IBD tends to be more prevalent in populations that have adopted a Westernized lifestyle, including diets, urbanization, and industrialization. 
  • Age: Onset for IBD is usually between the ages of 15 and 35. 
  • Race: Caucasians tend to have a higher risk for developing the disease, as do Ashkenazi Jews. 
  • Family history: There is a greater risk for developing IBD if a close relative has the disease. 
  • NSAIDs: can trigger a flare-up of IBD 
  • Smoking
Having one or more of the above risk factors does not mean that you will develop inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Understanding your risk factors will help you determine, what, if any, precautions and special screening you should consider.


Symptoms

Inflammatory bowel disease has active and quiet stages. During quiet times, or remission, there are generally no symptoms. During active stages, the affected tissue becomes inflamed, causing several symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms vary depending on what part of the digestive tract is affected. 

General symptoms include: 

  • Abdominal cramps and pain 
  • Bloody diarrhea 
  • Severe urgency to have a bowel movement 
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss 
  • Anemia due to blood loss 
If you have one or more of the above symptoms, it does not mean that you have IBD. If you think you have IBD, please call your doctor.