Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) encompasses two distinct bowel conditions: ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). IBD affects about 1 in 300 people in the Western world. Historically, bowel issues have been a taboo subject, but the current trend to share symptoms, experiences and even photographs of stomas has helped increase public understanding.
Dr James Andrew Robinson is a leading gastroenterologist in Manchester who specialises in treating IBD. Here he explains more about the symptoms of the disease and how it compares to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
What are the symptoms of IBD?
IBD can cause various symptoms. If it affects the large bowel, the main symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhoea, urgency, bleeding from the bottom and a constant feeling of needing to go to the toilet. If it affects the small bowel, symptoms include pain after eating, weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. Sometimes IBD can run in families, but many cases occur with no family history. Abdominal pain and diarrhoea are common symptoms and most of the time there is no bowel disease.
How does IBD compare to IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects about 1 in 10 people and can produce similar symptoms, including diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and pain after eating or before bowel movements. Weight loss and bleeding aren’t typical of IBS and usually require urgent attention.
A doctor can often work out the cause by analysing the symptoms or simple blood or stool tests but can run more detailed tests to differentiate between IBD and IBS if uncertain, making sure the correct treatment is advised. Nowadays there are many good treatments for IBD and most people can avoid surgery.