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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the principal types of inflammatory bowel disease. It is important to note that not only does Crohn's disease affect the small intestine and large intestine, it can also affect the mouth, esophagus, stomach and the anus whereas ulcerative colitis primarily affects the colon and the rectum.
In spite of Crohn's and UC being very different diseases, both may present with any of the following symptoms: abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, severe internal cramps/muscle spasms in the region of the pelvis and weight loss. Anemia is the most prevalent extraintestinal complication of inflammatory bowel disease. Associated complaints or diseases include arthritis, pyoderma gangrenosum, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and non-thyroidal illness syndrome (NTIS). Associations with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP) have also been reported. Diagnosis is generally by assessment of inflammatory markers in stool followed by colonoscopy with biopsy of pathological lesions.
The diagnosis is usually confirmed by biopsies on colonoscopy. Fecal calprotectin is useful as an initial investigation, which may suggest the possibility of IBD, as this test is sensitive but not specific for IBD.
Other diseases may cause an increased excretion of fecal calprotectin, such as infectious diarrhea, untreated coeliac disease, necrotizing enterocolitis, intestinal cystic fibrosis and neoplastic pediatric tumor cells.
Conditions with similar symptoms as Crohn's disease includes intestinal tuberculosis, Behçet's disease, ulcerative colitis, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug enteropathy, irritable bowel syndrome and coeliac disease.
Conditions with similar symptoms as ulcerative colitis includes acute self-limiting colitis, amebic colitis, schistosomiasis, Crohn's disease, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal tuberculosis and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug enteropathy.
CD and UC are chronic inflammatory diseases, and are not medically curable. However, ulcerative colitis can in most cases be cured by proctocolectomy, although this may not eliminate extra-intestinal symptoms. An ileostomy will collect feces in a bag. Alternatively, a pouch can be created from the small intestine; this serves as the rectum and prevents the need for a permanent ileostomy. A small percentage of patients with ileo-anal pouches do have to manage occasional or chronic pouchitis.
Surgery cannot cure Crohn's disease but may be needed to treat complications such as abscesses, strictures or fistulae. Severe cases may require surgery, such as bowel resection, strictureplasty or a temporary or permanent colostomy or ileostomy. In Crohn's disease, surgery involves removing the worst inflamed segments of the intestine and connecting the healthy regions, but unfortunately, it does not cure Crohn's or eliminate the disease. At some point after the first surgery, Crohn's disease can recur in the healthy parts of the intestine, usually at the resection site. (For example, if a patient with Crohn's disease has an ileocecal anastomosis, in which the caecum and terminal ileum are removed and the ileum is joined to the ascending colon, their Crohn's will nearly always flare-up near the anastomosis or in the rest of the ascending colon).
Medical treatment of IBD is individualised to each patient. The choice of which drugs to use and by which route to administer them (oral, rectal, injection, infusion) depends on factors including the type, distribution, and severity of the patient's disease, as well as other historical and biochemical prognostic factors, and patient preferences. For example, mesalazine is more useful in ulcerative colitis than in Crohn's disease.] Generally, depending on the level of severity, IBD may require immunosuppression to control the symptoms, with drugs such as prednisone, TNF inhibitors, azathioprine (Imuran), methotrexate, or 6-mercaptopurine.
Treatment is usually started by administering drugs with high anti-inflammatory effects, such as prednisone. Once the inflammation is successfully controlled, another drug to keep the disease in remission, such as mesalazine in UC, is the main treatment. If further treatment is required, a combination of an immunosuppressive drug (such as azathioprine) with mesalazine (which may also have an anti-inflammatory effect) may be needed, depending on the patient. Controlled release Budesonide is used for mild ileal Crohn's disease.