An upset stomach is never pleasant. In some cases, however, this can be more than a passing wave of discomfort. If you experience persistent stomach pain or digestive problems, you may have an underlying condition known as irritable bowel disease, or IBD. But what is IBD, and what treatment options are available to make your life more comfortable?
What is IBD?
Irritable bowel disease refers to chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It comprises two separate conditions — Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is also distinct from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. While these conditions share many of the same symptoms, IBD can lead to visible damage to the GI tract and an increased risk of colorectal cancers, whereas IBS does not. IBD can cause sores and harmful inflammation to develop in the intestines, which will lead to serious long-term consequences if left untreated.
Causes of IBD
The precise cause of IBD is unknown, but we know that the immune system and genetics play a major role. For those with IBD, viral or bacterial infections can trigger an autoimmune response, causing the body to attack cells in the GI tract along with the invasive organisms. Stress, trauma, nervous system malfunctions, and even muscular problems can also aggravate IBD and cause flare ups.
Symptoms of IBD
Symptoms of IBD range from mild to severe, depending on the case. Typically, the symptoms are not continuous but follow a cycle of flare ups and remission. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
- Change in frequency of bowel movements
- Change in appearance of bowel movements
Diagnosis & Treatment for IBD
Whereas IBS causes no visible damage to the GI tract and is diagnosed primarily through symptoms and eliminating other causes, IBD will show up in CT scans and MRIs as well as through a colonoscopy. Along with taking stool samples, these tests will help your healthcare provider determine what kind of IBD you have and what the best treatment options are.
There is no known cure for IBD, although several treatment options are available to relieve symptoms and prevent flare ups. Medication options include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (aminosalicylates) — for mild cases, to reduce inflammation
- Immunomodulators — for mild-to-moderate cases, to suppress immune response and reduce inflammation
- Biologics — for cases when other options have proven ineffective. These target specific areas of the immune system and are often given via IV injection or infusion.
Apart from medication, patients with IBD will also want to pay close attention to their diet and activities to see if there is a correlation between any of these and flare ups. In some cases, surgery may be necessary, especially if parts of the GI tract have been substantially damaged.
If You’re Suffering from IBS or IBD, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help
At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including flu vaccines. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.
If you need assistance, call us or fill out our online contact form.