Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a disease of chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract affecting 1 in 200 individuals. Although the reasons for the continuous inflammation associated with this condition are unknown, there seems to be an environmental exposure (whatever that might be) occurring in individuals who are genetically predisposed that sets off the cascade of inflammation. The two types of IBD commonly observed are Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Ulcerative Colitis occurs in a continuous fashion within the colon only, while Crohn’s Disease occurs in a random manner anywhere within the GI tract, but most often in the small bowel and where the last part of the small bowel connects to the colon.

Symptoms that commonly occur with IBD include diarrhea, abdominal pain and/or rectal bleeding that continue longer than the usual course of a “GI bug”. Other symptoms can include weight loss, fatigue, or fever. Individuals at risk for IBD include those less than 30 years of age and smokers. However, it’s interesting to note that an “unhealthy” diet and lack of exercise apparently have no role in developing IBD. In some patients, the disease may progress very rapidly, requiring surgery, while other patients may experience only minimal changes in their everyday lives.

Fortunately, treatment options have greatly improved over the last 10 years with the introduction of stronger medications able to help subdue the inflammation. Typically, a combination of oral and injectable medications are used together for treatment. Steroids have also proven to be beneficial, although their use has declined over time due to their side effects. Inflammation left unchecked over time can lead to irreversible changes of the GI tract that can only be treated surgically. Treatment goals now include making the bowel surface look normal again as these individuals do the best clinically.

Gastroenterologists are formally trained doctors who can diagnose and effectively treat patients who have IBD. If you have symptoms as described above, further evaluation is advised. Many other diseases can appear in a similar fashion to IBD, so a definite diagnosis is a must before treatment can be recommended. The work-up will usually include blood work as well as a colonoscopy to visualize the colon surface and biopsies looking for changes consistent with chronic inflammation.

Texarkana Gastroenterology Consultants now has four Board Certified Gastroenterologists specially trained to diagnose and treat IBD and other gastrointestinal problems. You may call us directly for a prompt appointment. Most insurances including Medicare DO NOT require a referral to see a specialist.

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