This is a group of conditions which includes Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis for which the cause is not known but where there is inflammation in
part of the bowel. Some of these conditions also affect other parts of the body. They are more common in younger adults, but can present at any age.
What are the symptoms?
IBD can present in many different ways. Usually people get loose or frequent bowel movements, often associated with some bleeding or passage of
mucous. Some people experience “urgency” – a sudden need to get to the toilet – or a feeling of incomplete emptying after having passed a stool.
Weight loss or anaemia can also feature where there is more widespread inflammation.
How is the diagnosis made?
The best way to make the diagnosis is by taking a biopsy from an inflamed part of the bowel, often involving a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Even with a biopsy, sometimes the pathologist has difficulty telling the difference between the different types of IBD, and it is often a combination of
the biopsy findings with the pattern of disease which makes the diagnosis. Other tests are also sometimes helpful including scans or blood or
What is the treatment?
There is no known cure for IBD, however in most cases the inflammation can be controlled with medications. Once settled, some people will benefit
from being on long term treatment to suppress the inflammation, but this is not invariably the case. Medical treatment is often co-ordinated and
monitored by a gastroenterologist and if you are found to have IBD I will make sure that you are referred to one of my gastroenterology colleagues.
Surgery for IBD is sometimes needed, either due to an acute problem related to IBD such as inflammation which doesn’t settle with medications, or
for more longstanding problems such as narrowing of the bowel which sometimes happens with repeated attacks of inflammation in the same part
of the bowel. Surgery is usually arrived at following consultation between your surgeon and gastroenterologist and, of course, discussion with you
regarding the options available.