Mastering inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Written by: Mr Andrew Brian Williams
Edited by: Kate Forristal

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) refers to conditions characterised by long-term inflammation of the digestive tract. The main types of IBD are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. These conditions can be life-altering, but with the right knowledge and treatment, many people can manage their symptoms effectively. In his latest online article, Mr Andrew Brian Williams gives us his insights.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

IBD is a group of conditions characterised by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The exact cause of IBD is unknown, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. Unlike Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is a less severe condition that affects how the gut functions, IBD involves more serious inflammation that can lead to permanent damage.


Types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Crohn’s disease: This type of IBD can affect any part of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, but it most commonly affects the end of the small intestine (ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine (colon). Inflammation can occur in patches and may extend through the entire thickness of the bowel wall.


Ulcerative colitis: This condition specifically affects the colon and the rectum. The inflammation in Ulcerative Colitis is usually continuous and limited to the innermost lining of the colon. Symptoms can vary depending on the extent of inflammation and the part of the colon affected.


Symptoms of IBD

The symptoms of IBD can vary widely, but they often include:

  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite


These symptoms can be mild or severe and may come and go in periods of flare-ups and remission.


Diagnosing IBD

 If you experience symptoms suggestive of IBD, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. Diagnosis typically involves a combination of tests, including:


Blood tests: To check for signs of inflammation or anaemia.


Stool tests: To look for blood or infections.


Endoscopic procedures: Such as colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, to directly visualise the GI tract and take biopsies.


Imaging studies: Such as CT scans or MRIs, to get a detailed view of the intestines.


Treatment options

While there is no cure for IBD, various treatments can help manage the symptoms and induce remission. These may include:


Medications: Anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, and biologics (drugs made from living organisms) are commonly used.


Diet and nutrition: Certain dietary changes can help manage symptoms. It’s important to work with a dietitian to identify trigger foods.


Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove damaged parts of the GI tract, especially if there is a risk of complications like bowel obstruction or perforation.


Living with IBD

Living with IBD can be challenging, but many people find ways to lead full, active lives. Regular follow-ups with your healthcare team, staying informed about your condition, and joining support groups can be beneficial. Managing stress, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet are also important aspects of managing IBD.


Understanding your condition and its treatment options is the first step towards taking control of your health. If you have any questions or concerns about IBD, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider.


Mr Andrew Brian Williams is an esteemed colorectal surgeon. You can schedule an appointment with Mr Williams on his Top Doctors profile.

By Mr Andrew Brian Williams
Colorectal surgery

Mr Andrew Brian Williams is a highly established consultant general and colorectal surgeon, with over 30 years of experience, based in London. He treats a whole host of ailments and performs a wide range of surgeries, possessing expert knowledge in anal fistula, proctology and fissures, alongside haemorrhoids, pelvic floor dysfunction, including constipation, obstructed defaecation, incontinence and OASI and inflammatory bowel disease.

Mr Williams studied medicine at the University of London, graduating in 1991 with a MBBS. Following this, he commenced surgical training at the South East region of London at Guy's and St Thomas'. He completed his training in the South East region and up until recently worked in the NHS at Guy’s and St Thomas’. He is also interested in research, completing a period of research at St Mark's culminating in a Master’s degree in 2002. Keeping his interest in research he has supervised a number of successful higher degrees and has over 100 peer-reviewed papers to his name.

Mr Williams also enjoys educating his peers, undertaking teaching on the pelvic floor, in particular, anal and pelvic floor ultrasound scanning. He has a special interest in inflammatory bowel disease, complex anal sepsis and pelvic floor disorders. He established the pelvic floor unit of St Thomas’ Hospital, which serves the whole of South East England for complex pelvic floor services, treating over 900 patients per year. This unit he extended to involve London Bridge Hospital so that his private patients could benefit from the same service.

He has set up a fully private multidisciplinary service and MDT for patients with complex multicompartment pelvic floor symptoms. This involves the full pelvic floor team, including Urogynaecology, Urology, Radiology, physiotherapy, nursing and dietetics. Mr Williams is a member of multiple medical associations, including the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland and the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland, and Pelvic Floor Society (PFS). He is the past president of the PFS and has been heavily involved in the societies response to problems following the insertion of pelvic floor mesh. For this work he has recently been awarded the Geoff Oaks medal for “substantial contribution to Coloproctology in GB and Ireland.

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