An easy-to-digest guide to IBD

Written by: Dr James Andrew Robinson
Edited by: Laura Burgess

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.

By Dr James Andrew Robinson

Dr James Andrew Robinson is a top gastroenterologist based in Manchester, who specialises in treating diarrhoea, acid reflux, indigestion, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), among others. Well-versed in all aspects of gastroenterology, his expertise has led to his appointment to several prominent positions in his field, including Clinical Director for Gastroenterology, Respiratory Medicine and Palliative Care at Salford Royal Hospital, as well as being named Core Medical Training Director for North West Deanery and Associate Regional Advisor to the Royal College of Physicians.

Dr Robinson graduated from Oxford University and worked there before returning to the North-West, where he underwent further training. He then completed a PhD before gaining the position of Consultant Gastroenterologist at Hope Hospital. In 2001, he was appointed to the same position at Salford Royal and became an honorary clinical lecturer at Manchester University. 

Dr Robinson believes in a patient-centric approach, emphasising the importance of making information as accessible as possible to the patient, encouraging them to take part in the decision-making process, and guiding them in self-management of certain gastroenterolological problems.

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