Learn about Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What is IBD

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) describes a group of conditions in which the intestines become inflamed. The two most common inflammatory bowel diseases are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Another form of IBD is microscopic colitis. 

There is no official database which gives accurate figures, but it is thought that at least 40,000 people are living with IBD in Ireland. There were 5.9 new cases of Crohn’s disease in Ireland per 100,000 population in 2011 and 14.9 new cases of ulcerative colitis. The incidence of Crohn's disease is higher than ulcerative colitis in children. Males and females are affected equally and patients can be diagnosed at any age, including babies and children. The peak age of incidence is between the ages of 15 and 35, with a second (smaller) peak from the 50s to 70s. IBD diagnosed in children can behave differently and can be treated differently to that diagnosed in adults.

Crohn's Disease

DEFINITION

Crohn’s Disease is an Inflammatory Bowel disease. It can result in inflammation of any part of the gut, from the mouth to the anus. The most common area affected is the end small bowel/small intestine. Often the gut becomes inflamed in patches of varying sizes and severity, with healthy parts of gut in-between these sections. 

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic condition. This means that it is ongoing and life-long, although you may have periods of good health (remission), as well as times when symptoms are more active (relapses or flare-ups).

CAUSES

The causes for Crohn’s disease are not fully understood at present. Recent research has pointed to several possible causes for Crohn’s Disease including;

Ulcerative Colitis

DEFINITION

Ulcerative Colitis is an Inflammatory Bowel disease. It can result in inflammation. Ulcerative Colitis causes inflammation of the rectum and large intestine. Unlike in Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative colitis is restricted to the large intestine and rectum and does not appear in random patches throughout the whole length of the gut. The ulcers that from are on the surface of the lining of the bowel and may cause bleeding and mucus.  As with Crohn's, the causes of UC are not fully understood at present.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition. This means that it is ongoing and life-long, although you may have periods of good health (remission), as well as times when symptoms are more active (relapses or flare-ups).

Features of IBD

There is currently no known cure for IBD.

While Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis can behave differently, they do have some common features. They are marked by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system, leading to swollen, inflamed and ulcerated intestines.

The main difference between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis relates to the depth of inflammation. In ulcerative colitis, inflammation usually affects only the mucosa (inner lining of the intestine). In Crohn’s disease, the inflammation can be deeper into the tissue and even perforate the bowel in severe cases.

In Crohn’s disease there are usually patchy or discontinuous areas of inflammation (known as skip lesions) whereas in ulcerative colitis, there is a continuous area of inflammation.

There has been an increase in the incidence of IBD over the past number of decades which leads scientists to believe that environmental factors contribute to the cause of the disease, as well as there being a known genetic component.

IBD is not to be confused with IBS which stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.