What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD?)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) refers to a group of diseases that cause inflammation and ulceration of the intestines.   The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system – from “gum to bum”.   Crohn’s disease can lead to complications of strictures (narrowing) and fistulas (connections between organs).  Crohn’s disease often affects the bum area around the anus (where you pass stool) – “perianal disease”.

Typical symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss.

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Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis affects the colon (large bowel) only.  Long term chronic active colitis can increase one’s risk of developing colon cancer.

Typical symptoms of ulcerative colitis can include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, weight loss.

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Complications of IBD

People with IBD can have complications of the disease.   Crohn’s disease is commonly complicated by strictures, fistulas, and abscesses.  Crohn’s disease is associated with perianal disease (fistulas, and abscesses).

 

 

What is a stricture?

A stricture is a narrowed section of the intestine – think of a clogged garden hose or a sewer pipe.    When there is narrowing, the flow of liquids and food through the intestine is slower, and in some cases can be blocked or obstructed.    In severe cases, surgery is required to remove the stricture or to open the stricture.

What is a fistula?

A fistula is a connection between the intestine and another organ (another part of the intestine, to the skin around the bum, to the skin on the abdomen, to other organs).  Fistulas typically develop from an ulcer that has gone through the intestinal wall, and can be associated with abscesses (infected fluid collections).   Strictures can drive fistulas – meaning the pressure of the backed up fluids and food contents above the stricture, can push outwards to any weakened or ulcerated area, leading to the fistula.  For example, think of a very old “garden hose” that you use to water your lawn.  If the “garden hose” (ie intestine) has weakened areas (ie ulcers) or already has holes (ie perforations) in it, and you “pinch” or “block” (ie narrowing, stricture)  the water flow –> the water above the “pinched” or “blocked” area will build up pressure, and the water will find the weakest spot or the holes that already exist, and thus you have a “leaking” garden hose!   Your body will try to heal itself, and most often ends up creating  connections (ie fistulas) from the diseased area, to another area of intestine, or to the skin, or another organ.

 

What is perianal disease?

Perianal disease refers to inflammation around the anus (where you pass stool).   This can include abscesses, fistulas, skin tags.

What is an abscess?

An abscess is a collection of infected fluid or pus.   Abscesses need to be treated with antibiotics and sometimes drained surgically.