Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the intestines -
Crohn's disease. The symptoms of these two illnesses are very similar, which often makes it difficult to distinguish between the two. In fact, about 10% of colitis (inflamed colon) cases cannot be diagnosed as either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. When physicians cannot diagnose the specific IBD, the condition is called indeterminate colitis.
Inflammatory bowel disease is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. IBS causes discomfort and distress, but it does not permanently damage the intestines, and it does not cause serious diseases, such as cancer. Inflammatory bowel disease, on the other hand, causes chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and may lead to complications like colon cancer.
Researchers estimate that about one million Americans have inflammatory bowel disease. While IBD can develop at any age, it is most prevalent among individuals aged 15 to 30.
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Ulcerative colitis is different from Crohn's disease because inflammation is limited to only the colon. Also, ulcerative colitis only affects the superficial layers (the mucosa) of the colon. With more than 500,000 Americans living with ulcerative colitis, the condition is slightly more prevalent than Crohn's disease. However, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the two diseases. Also, the early stages of Crohn's disease may be mistaken for ulcerative colitis because the disease starts in the colon and progresses throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
Ulcerative colitis may develop at any age.
ibd and colon cancer
Individuals who have IBD are more likely to develop colon cancer, even if the condition is managed with treatment. The risk of colon cancer is related to the extent and duration of disease, not its activity. The risk is the greatest among individuals who have had IBD for more than eight years, and if it has spread throughout the entire colon. Despite the increased risk, more than 90% of individuals with IBD do not develop cancer.
Individuals who have had IBD for more than eight years should visit a gastroenterologist at least once a year. Regular colonoscopies may also be recommended.