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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a difficult condition deserving the utmost attention because of the potential severity of its symptoms, because it can be a chronic long-term condition and because it tends to affect younger people. In IBD, the intestines become irritated and inflamed for reasons that are poorly understood. The disease can bring pain and bleeding, as well as diarrhea, and thus can compromise an individual’s life.

In some people, areas of the large or small intestine can become  immunologically overactive, causing a type of autoimmune damage to the interior surface of these bowels. Symptoms may be mild to severe and the problem can affect the nutritional status, hydration status, red blood cell count and lifestyle of the individual. Cramping, fever, fatigue and weight loss may accompany the inflammatory process.

Swelling and scarring can also narrow the passage within the digestive tract. Obstructions, fistulas and other complications  can occur, as can health problems involving other parts of the body.

Fortunately, the condition can mostly or partially resolve as the young adult suffering from IBD enters the third or fourth decade of live. For other patients, though, the disease is life long and typically alternates between periods of active symptoms and remission.

Virtua GI specialists take an aggressive, proactive approach to IBD to try to minimize the amount the disease interferes with a patient’s life.

Two Primary Types of IBD
GI doctors generally categorize a case of IBD as fitting one of two forms  of the disease:
Ulcerative colitis. In this condition, the lining of colon or large intestine  becomes so red and swollen that it develops open wounds (ulcers) which be very painful. It can directly affect the rectal area and can cause mucus and blood in the stool.
Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s primarily affects the last part of the small intestine  but can spread to other areas. The inflammation generally involves the full thickness of the bowel wall.

Research indicates that in these conditions, when an agent like bacteria or food protein contacts the intestine some combination of genetics and abnormal developmental immunities causes sensitization and overreaction in local tissue. The immune system then inadvertently attacks normal intestinal cells as well.

Hope From Ever-Improving Drugs

Virtua’s experienced clinicians can identify this sometimes difficult-to-diagnose condition based on history, symptoms, physical examination and testing. Colonoscopy can help these specialists visually identify the condition  and permit them to take a sample (biopsy) of the affected area to gain more information about the exact status of bowel tissue. X-ray, CT imaging or  capsule endoscopy  procedures may also be helpful.

Significant clinical research into the disease has yielded important strides in medical treatment for IBD. Newer drugs aimed at altering the immunologic sequence of events in IBD are helping many patients overcome the worst aspects of the condition and conduct more normalized lives. Many patients may take advantage of both anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs. Highly specific adjustments to diet may also be important to finding a nutritional regimen that works best to lessen symptoms for the individual with IBD.

Finding a Way through the Most Challenging Periods

IBD is the result of irritation and reactive injury to the lining on the interior of the intestines, resulting in pain, spasms, bleeding, scarring and sometimes obstructions.

Virtua gastroenterologists know how to step patients through a trial of drugs starting with the most benign and, if necessary, progressing to more powerful drugs. The medical field has found no set cures for IBD, and so treatment often involves sequential trials of different medications.

See physician newsletter on IBD care.

In severe cases of IBD that do not respond adequately to medical approaches, surgery  can sometimes help. Virtua gastroenterologists collaborate with Virtua general surgeons who can remove segments of the intestine severely afflicted by IBD. While this treatment does not cure the disease, it does help patients past the most difficult periods, as a way to avoid more severe complications and to co-exist with the disease, and to hopefully gain at least a partial remission thereafter.

With first-rate medical care such as that provided by Virtua’ GI service, many people with IBD are able to function well. Helped through the most difficult periods, many young patients can partly or wholly leave the disease behind as they pass the highest-incidence ages.

Virtua’S modern Infusion Center serves IBD patients.  Learn more.

1-888-847-8823 (568-7337)

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