Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Treatment

What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe conditions that cause chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.  Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the digestive tract (from mouth to anus), and typically affects the small bowel and colon.  Ulcerative Colitis affects the colon and rectum.

IBD often causes significant pain and discomfort and changes in bowel habits.  Without treatment, it can lead to serious health complications and put patients at risk for malnutrition and colon cancer.

The Northwest Gastroenterology Clinic team is dedicated to treating IBD and helping patients.

To meet with a provider at our Westside or Eastside Clinic, call (503) 229-7137 or request an appointment online.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Causes

The exact mechanism behind the development of IBD is currently unknown.  However, current studies have revealed that genetics and environmental factors and the immune system response may play a large role in leading to Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

Certain people are at a higher risk of developing IBD, particularly those who:

  • Have a family history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • Smoke
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or antibiotics
  • Consume a diet high in fat or refined foods

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Symptoms

The symptoms of IBD vary depending on which type of IBD diagnosis a patient has.  Symptoms may become severe during flare-ups and resolve when the disease is in remission.

The following are common inflammatory bowel disease symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Urgent bowel movements
  • Joint discomfort and/or pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Eye irritation
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia

Diagnosing IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease is typically confirmed by pathology (tissue biopsy), although imaging studies and blood tests may help clinicians reach the diagnosis.

Endoscopic procedures allow gastroenterologists to identify areas of concern within the digestive tract using a flexible viewing probe with a camera that is inserted through the anus. Samples of tissue (biopsy) are taken for evaluation.

Your Northwest Gastroenterology physician may recommend one or more of the following exams:

  • Colonoscopy: Examines entire colon and sometimes part of the small intestine (the terminal ileum)
  • Sigmoidoscopy: Examines your rectum and sigmoid—the last portion of the large intestine
  • Upper Endoscopy: Examines the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine

Imaging studies (CT scan or MRI) may help in identifying complications related to IBD like fistulas and bowel obstructions.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Treatment Options

Goals of treatment for IBD include reducing intestinal inflammation and reaching mucosal healing and clinical remission.  Some medications (like corticosteroids) induce remission only, other medications maintain remission, and some medications aim to do both.  Treatment options also depend on whether a patient’s disease is classified as mild, moderate, or severe.  In moderate and severe IBD, immunosuppressive agents may be required to attain clinical remission.

Diet may be another critical component to helping IBD symptoms. These strategies may help:

  • Eating small, frequent meals
  • Increase water intake
  • Limiting dairy products
  • Consuming low-fat and low-fiber foods

Iron, calcium and vitamin D supplements may be recommended in the setting of nutritional deficiency.

Gastroenterologists also work closely with colorectal surgeons in the management of IBD.  In some cases, operations may be required to manage IBD or its complications (fistulizing disease or intestinal strictures).  Typical operations performed by surgeons in the management of IBD may include resection of disease portions of the gut, or removal of the entire colon and rectum.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Complications

Left untreated, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may lead to severe complications that impact overall health.  Complications of IBD include:

  • Blood clots
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Malnutrition
  • Skin, eye and joint inflammation
  • Anal fissure— a small tear in bowel tissue
  • Fistulas—an abnormal connection between the bowel and another organ
  • Colon cancer

If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of IBD, contact the Northwest Gastroenterology Clinic in Portland, Oregon to discuss your treatment options with an IBD specialist. Call (503) 229-7137 or contact us online.