What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) covers a group of chronic diseases primarily affecting the gastrointestinal tract. We still don’t know that causes IBD, which can occur at any age. It’s believed to be a combination of genetics, altered immune system, environmental factors and the condition of the microbiome (the mixture of bacteria living in the intestines.) The most common types of IBD are:
- Crohn’s disease: This is an inflammation of the digestive tract – anywhere between the mouth to the anus. It is a patchy condition, meaning it can be found in multiple areas at the same time. It most commonly occurs at the end of the small bowel (ileum) and beginning of the colon. Typical symptoms include abdominal pain, anemia and malnutrition.
- Ulcerative colitis: The condition is characterized by sores or ulcers in the large intestine (the colon and rectum). You may experience symptoms of urgency or frequent diarrhea with bleeding.
How is IBD diagnosed?
Diagnosis begins with a review of your symptoms, medical history and a physical examination. Next, our team uses a wide array of state-of-the-art diagnostic tests, imaging and endoscopic procedures to determine the specifics of your condition. Among the diagnostic tools we offer:
- Blood tests examine cell counts and basic chemicals in the body.
- ESR (Estimated Sedimentation Rate) and C-reactive protein (CRP) can indicate chronic inflammation.
- Stool studies for inflammation and to look for bacterial or viral causes.
- X-rays can identify obstructions or perforations in the intestines.
- Computerized Tomography (CT) enterography scans can identify strictures, fistulae and thickening of the bowel wall.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) enterography uses magnetic fields to provide 3-D images of the gastrointestinal tract. These scans can identify inflammation, strictures, fistulae and abscesses. It also can look at the small intestines, which cannot be reached with endoscopy or colonoscopy.
- Upper GI endoscopy: A small flexible fiber-optic tube is used to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine.) The physician also can take samples of tissue or fluid.
- Colonoscopy: A flexible fiber optic tube is inserted through the anus to examine the colon, or large intestine. Preparation includes a clear liquid diet the day before the procedure, as well as colon prep medication to clear out the colon.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This is a shorter version of the colonoscopy that examines only the left side of the colon. It is often used to monitor response to therapy.
- Video Capsule Endoscopy: A small pill-sized camera (either swallowed or placed via endoscopy) is used to take pictures of the small intestine and bowel as it travels through the body.
- Chromoendoscopy: This is a technique used during a colonoscopy, in which a dye is sprayed on the lining of the colon wall. It allows for better detection of precancerous lesions.
- Double balloon enteroscopy: This is a technique to examine the small intestine where a long tube is used with an overtube to access deeper parts of the small intestine.