Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Written by Jacey Harmon
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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a family of illnesses which affect the gastrointestinal tract. As indicated by the name of the disease family, IBD causes persistent inflammation of the intestine. Most inflammatory bowel diseases are chronic disorders for which there are no cures. Patients may experience periods in which the disease is highly active, or which the disease is in remission.

Common Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Between the two, it is estimated there are over one million Americans affected. Ulcerative colitis is the most common in the United States with ten to 15 out of every 100,000 people infected with the disease. Crohn's disease affects seven out of every 100,000 people in the United States.

There are no known causes for inflammatory bowel diseases. Researchers do have several theories as to how individuals contract the disease. A common theory states the disease is hereditary. Studies have shown a high degree of blood relatives with the disease, too high to be a coincidence. Some researchers believe IBD is caused by an abnormal response from the immune system to food and harmless bacteria.

Crohn's disease is a chronic disorder for which there is no cure. Medication can help manage the disease's remission period but there is no cure available. Unlike Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis can be cured by surgically removing the colon. This occurs only in the most extreme cases of the disease, however. Surgery is an option for those severely afflicted with Crohn's disease, yet the disease often comes back after a period of time.

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