About Crohn's and Colitis

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) are autoimmune diseases that cause inflammation in the digestive tract.

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) are chronic, autoimmune diseases that cause inflammation in the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers or sores in the inner lining of the large intestine, the colon, and can include the rectum. Crohn’s disease is a form of IBD that can cause inflammation in any part of the entire digestive tract including the entire thickness of the bowel wall. The symptoms of both can be similar and include frequent, urgent, and sometimes bloody bowel movements and abdominal cramps. People may also experience what is known as extraintestinal symptoms, meaning those that are not directly related to the digestive system. These can include, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, night sweats, eye redness/vision changes, and joint pain which are also common occurrences. 

3 million Americans have IBD, but that number is on the rise.  The disease can appear at any age but is most commonly diagnosed before the age of 30.  However, the incidence of IBD among children under the age of 15 is on the rise, and even infants, once a rarity, are increasingly being diagnosed. There is a subset of IBD knows as Very Early Onset IBD (VEOIBD), which is for children diagnosed when they are 6 or younger. Whether it be Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, these children have different identifiers for the expression of their disease than patients who are diagnosed when older. As of yet, no matter what age you are diagnosed, there is no answer to what exactly causes IBD. So far, over 200 genes have been discovered that are associated with IBD but the mechanism is not fully understood.  Diet, bacterial changes in the gut, stress, and other factors are known to play a role in triggering the disease but they are not the sole cause of the onset of IBD.

Up to one third of people with ulcerative colitis will require removal of their colon.

Children with IBD often miss a lot of school when they are in a flare and can experience painful cramps, frequent diarrhea, and vomiting which can make it hard to sit through classes. For adults and children getting the nourishment they need and staying hydrated can be very difficult for some. At the time of diagnoses or during a flare, hospitalization for IV fluids and other medications may be necessary. 

Many people may have heard of these digestive diseases but may not realize how serious, difficult and life-altering these chronic illnesses are.  This is not an upset stomach or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Crohn’s and colitis profoundly impact the quality of a person’s life, and the diseases can be especially aggressive in children. IBD can cause growth failure, require countless doctor's visits and interventions making it challenging for children to focus on just being a kid. IBD also affects mental health, and impacts the entire family. Fortunately, doctors are much more aware of the psycho-social impact of IBD and can include this as part of the treatment plan

Unfortunately, since researchers are still solving the puzzle of IBD and all the many factors that trigger it, we don’t have a cure. However, much progress has been made and many new treatments are available and are in the pipeline. 

Many patients do not respond or lose response to the common IBD medications and researchers are focusing on how to individualize treatment as each person’s IBD is unique. Current research is focusing on the interplay between genes, bacteria and environmental factors in order to tailor treatments to an individual’s needs. 

About 70% of people with Crohn’s disease eventually will require some kind of surgery to remove a particularly diseased area of the intestines.

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