What is inflammatory bowel disease?

People are sometimes confused by the term inflammatory bowel disease, because it actually refers to many different diseases. In fact, doctors now think IBD may be 50 to 100 different diseases with symptoms that overlap. But in general, IBD refers to two diseases of the digestive system: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

This infographic gives an overview of IBD, explains how it differs from IBS, and compares the symptoms of Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. We hope it answers lingering questions about IBD and helps demystify this complex disease.

What is inflammatory bowel disease infographic
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Crohn's disease vs. ulcerative colitis 

Crohn’s disease: Inflammation in any part of the digestive tract, most commonly the last portion of the small bowel and the first part of the large intestine. 25% of patients will also have inflammation around their anal area. Common symptoms for Crohn’s disease include abdominal pain, weight loss, joint pain and swelling, fatigue, mouth sores, and anemia/ iron deficiency.

Ulcerative colitis: Inflammation of the large intestine (colon and rectum). Common symptoms for ulcerative colitis include persistent diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, bleeding, and urgency.

IBD vs. IBS

IBD shares similar symptoms with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but they are very different conditions and require different treatments. IBS is a non-inflammatory condition and considered a disorder of the digestive tract. IBS is relatively common and does not cause damage to the colon.

What is the best treatment for IBD?

Every patient’s IBD is different, so a personalized approach is key. The goal of treatment is to achieve remission by improving symptoms and controlling inflammation thus improving quality of life. Effective treatment plans focus on overall health while minimizing side effects and discomfort.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center

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