Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

One in 250 of people in the UK are affected by the chronic inflammatory bowel diseases Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease and are becoming increasingly common. 10% of patients diagnosed may have another family member similarly-affected, indicating the importance of inherited genes which confer increased susceptibility to these diseases. Asian and Jewish people are at increased risk. Environmental triggers, such as smoking, are particularly important. Crohn’s patients tend to smoke, whereas UC patients tend to be non-smokers or recent ex-smokers. Anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen or Diclofenac) or antibiotics can sometimes trigger a flare-up of symptoms. Dietary factors are often implicated, but the evidence for this is lacking. Often, however, the cause of a flare-up is unknown. A loss of regulation of the immune system in the gut wall when exposed to bacteria inside the intestine or colon is a key factor in the triggering of inflammatory processes. It is important to point out that patients suffering from IBD tend to be well and enjoy a good quality of life for 50% of the time. When patients develop a flare-up, however, symptoms of diarrhoea with or without blood, pain and weight loss occur. Tiredness, acheing joints, eye, mouth and skin conditions can develop and anaemia and signs of inflammation on blood tests become evident. Gastroenterologists have special expertise in the diagnosis of these chronic conditions, and in providing support and treatment to patients so-affected, often for prolonged periods during their lifetime. The following information sheets, many of which are published by the award-winning charity Crohn’s and colitis UK, give very helpful insight for patients and their families.

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