What to do with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Written by gary h. hoffman m.d.
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What to do with Inflammatory Bowel Disease
IBD can cause severe stomach pain. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

IBD symptoms usually first develop in a patient's teens or early 20s. You may experience abdominal cramping and bloody, mucus-filled stools. Other symptoms include weight loss, malnutrition and anemia. Often, patients undergo a battery of diagnostic tests, which include an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, small bowel X-rays and blood tests.

In ulcerative colitis, or UC, the inflammation extends continuously from the anus to the rectum. Sometimes, the inflammation spans across the entire colon. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, and the inflammation is not always continuous; it can skip sections of the bowel.

Because ulcerative colitis affects only the colon and rectum, the disease can be cured surgically if it cannot be managed with medical treatment. During surgery, the entire colon and rectum are removed, and a new rectum is surgically created using the small bowel. The new rectum is called a "J" pouch because the surgeon fashions the small bowel into a J shape before attaching it to the anus.

Crohn’s disease also can be treated surgically, but unlike for UC, surgery does not cure Crohn’s disease. When Crohn’s disease proves unresponsive to medical therapy, the goal is limited surgical resection that preserves the bowel.

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