An estimated 3.1 million adults (1.3%) in the United States have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is a broad term that indicates chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week was created in 2011 by U.S. Senate Resolution 199, “A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week, December 1-7.” Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week is designed to bring together the IBD community around a shared goal—to raise awareness and educate the public about IBD.
What is IBD?
Known collectively as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are painful, medically incurable diseases that attack the digestive system, causing symptoms including abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever, and weight loss.
Crohn’s disease may attack anywhere along the digestive tract, while ulcerative colitis inflames only the large intestine (colon). In addition to the impact on the GI tract, in some patients, IBD may also affect the joints, skin, bones, kidneys, liver, and eyes.
What are the symptoms of IBD?
Some common symptoms are:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding/bloody stools
- Weight loss
What causes IBD?
The exact cause of IBD is unknown, but IBD is the result of a defective immune system. A properly functioning immune system attacks foreign organisms, such as viruses and bacteria, to protect the body. In IBD, the immune system responds incorrectly to environmental triggers, which causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. There also appears to be a genetic component—someone with a family history of IBD is more likely to develop this inappropriate immune response.
How is IBD diagnosed?
IBD is diagnosed using a combination of endoscopy (for Crohn’s disease) or colonoscopy (for ulcerative colitis) and imaging studies, such as contrast radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT). Physicians may also check stool samples to make sure symptoms are not being caused by an infection or run blood tests to help confirm the diagnosis.
What Treatment is Available for People with IBD?
Several types of medications may be used to treat IBD: aminosalicylates, corticosteroids (such as prednisone), immunomodulators, and the newest class approved for IBD—the “biologics”. Several vaccinations for patients with IBD are recommended to prevent infections. Severe IBD may require surgery to remove damaged portions of the gastrointestinal tract, but advances in treatment with medications mean that surgery is less common than it was a few decades ago. Since Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect different parts of the GI tract, the surgical procedures are different for the two conditions.
IBD is more pervasive and severe than many people realize since many of its are not seen by other people. To learn more about IBD, click here to see the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Updated IBD Fact Book.
If you or someone you know is suffering from IBD, or any other illness, and you are being denied benefits by your insurer, please call Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation or use our online contact form. We understand, and we can help.