Healthcare: Gastroenterology & Digestive Health

About Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)


What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a broad term that describes various conditions that cause longstanding inflammation of different parts of the digestive system. Although small and large intestines are mainly impacted, IBD can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus.

Simply put, IBD is an autoimmune condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks your various body parts, which causes chronic and harmful inflammation.

Common types of IBD include ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and indeterminate colitis.

Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a condition that causes diarrhea, belly pain, and bloody bowel movements. These symptoms happen because of inflammation and ulcers (sores) in the inner lining of the large intestine.

Crohn’s disease (CD) is a condition that predominantly affects the small intestine but can affect any part of the digestive system from mouth to anus. Apart from inflammation and ulcers like UC, this disease can also cause strictures and fistula between organs in rare circumstances.

Indeterminate colitis occurs when patients with IBD have some features of both Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease initially. A change in diagnosis may be possible in most cases eventually, later in the disease treatment.


What Are IBD Symptoms?


Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease could include abdominal pain, frequent diarrhea that may contain blood or pus, fever, chills, weight loss, malabsorption symptoms, and fatigue. The condition varies in severity from mild to moderate to severe. The inflammation can also affect other parts of the body, commonly the joints, skin, and eyes.


What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease?


Doctors do not know the exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease. Research shows that people with these conditions experience many changes in their immune system, but we don’t know why these changes happen. Research also shows a strong link to abnormal responses in the immune system, meaning certain unknown triggers cause your body’s immune system to attack itself. There is also a possible genetic component, which makes this condition more common among family members.


How is IBD Diagnosed?


There is no single test to diagnose IBD in most cases. Various studies may be needed to exclude other similar conditions and assess the severity of the disease.

  • Blood tests 
  • Stool tests (to check for infections and inflammatory markers)
  • Imaging studies (CT scan or MRI)
  • Colonoscopy with biopsies (tissue sampling). Sometimes we may need to perform upper endoscopy and/ or video capsule endoscopy.

All the blood and stool tests and imaging can be performed at Baylor Medicine.


How is IBD Treated?


Multidisciplinary teams work together to produce therapies to relieve inflammation and help you manage pain and discomfort. Your treatment may include:

Medication. Depending upon the diagnosis and its severity, various medications such as steroids and other biological therapies might be needed. These can be administered orally, rectally, or by injections (intravenously or subcutaneously) depending on the severity of the disease. Taking medications can help your intestines heal and decrease the frequency of flare-ups. You may need additional medications to control specific symptoms, such as anti-diarrheal medicine for diarrhea.

Medical nutrition therapy. Certain foods can make your symptoms worse. Our team includes a dedicated nutritionist who specializes in helping patients with inflammatory bowel disease avoid trigger foods. This can help reduce your symptoms, replace lost nutrients, and help your intestine heal.

Pain management. Using innovative approaches, experts can address the source of your pain.

Parenteral nutrition. This involves getting extra nutrition from special fluids you receive through a catheter (a thin, spaghetti-like tube) in your vein. Total parenteral nutrition can help you if your intestines need time to heal or your stomach has lost its ability to absorb nutrients from food taken by mouth.

Surgery. In rare cases, you may need surgery to repair or remove a portion of your gastrointestinal tract if other treatments are not successful.