Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Conshohocken, PA
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that affect the digestive tract. All IBD conditions are characterized by chronic inflammation. Though there are many different kinds of disorders that can cause this inflammation, the two most common diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
- Ulcerative colitis: Long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the large intestine
- Crohn's disease: Inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract; it can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus
Although the symptoms of IBD can be troublesome for many patients, there several treatments available that can bring relief to your symptoms. To meet with an inflammatory bowel disease specialist in Conshohocken who can provide you effective IBD treatment, call (215) 234-1669 or contact Dr. Kenneth Varano online.
Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The exact cause of IBD is unknown. In certain cases, inflammatory bowel disease is triggered by the body's own immune system. Research suggests that when the immune system attacks a harmless virus, bacteria, or food in the gut, it can cause inflammation. However, there may be other factors or a combination or several factors that cause the disease. These include bacteria, viruses, antigens, or some combination of genetics and environmental factors. Smoking, age, medication usage, and ethnicity may all contribute to your risk of developing IBD.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symptoms
IBD usually runs as two phases; active and remission. Active IBD is characterized by severe inflammation and intense symptoms. Remission IBD is characterized by little or no inflammation and an absence of symptoms.
Symptoms of active IBD include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Changes in stool appearance
- Blood in the stool
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Mood disturbances such as anxiety or depression
There are several complications that can arise from having IBD, specifically ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These include:
- Increased risk of colon cancer
- Skin, eye and joint inflammation
- Bowel obstruction
- Anal fissure (small tear in the tissue that lines the anus)
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Sclerosing cholangitis (scars within the bile duct)
Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The various tests used to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease fall into the categories of blood, endoscopic procedures, and imaging.
There are several different factors that healthcare professionals can check to determine the presence of IBD. An increased white blood cell count could be a sign of inflammation, and a low red cell count and hemoglobin level could be a sign of sever bleeding or anemia. Additionally, blood tests can also determine if the IBD is due to other viral infections. A fecal occult blood test may be done, in which a stool sample is examined for blood.
Your healthcare practitioner may need to physically look at the gut to determine the presence of IBD. Ways to do this include:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscope is used to examine the last one-third of your large intestine and rectum.
- Colonoscopy: A long flexible tube with a camera is used to examine the entire colon.
- Endoscopy: In an upper endoscopy, an endoscope is inserted and used to examine the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. In a capsule endoscopy, a small camera is swallowed and pictures of the digestive tract are taken and relayed to a receiver. The camera is eventually passed out of the body in your stool.
During any of these procedures, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) may be taken from the digestive tract for further testing.
There are several ways that your healthcare provider can capture images of the digestive tract to assist with an IBD diagnosis. These include:
- Barium X-ray: Rarely used, but can check for the symptoms of Crohn's disease.
- Computed tomography (CT scan): This test provides a better picture of the gut than an X-ray can.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test is especially useful for seeing the anal area or small intestine. Unlike a CT, there is no radiation used.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment
A variety of treatments are available for IBD. The goal of IBD treatment is to reduce the inflammation in the digestive tract. This in turn will reduce the symptoms. These treatments may include a change in diet, medications, or surgery.
An anti-inflammatory diet is often recommended for people with IBD. This diet restricts your intake of complex carbohydrates, lactose and processed foods, and encourages the consumption of probiotic-rich foods alongside monounsaturated fats and soluble fiber. Vitamin supplements are often recommended in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory diet in order to combat nutrient deficiencies common with IBD. Probiotics, prebiotics and fish oil may also provide some relief from the symptoms. Your healthcare provider may also recommend that meals be eaten in smaller, more frequent sittings and to remove allergenic foods from the diet that drive inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids and aminosalicylates are popular medications prescribed for IBD. Immune system suppressors like azathioprine and mercaptopurine work to prevent the immune system from releasing the inflammation-inducing chemicals in the first place. Antibiotics can also be used to fight off infections, or if infections are a concern. Anti-diarrheal medications, pain relievers and iron, calcium and vitamin D supplements can all be used when appropriate.
The type of surgery available to patients depends on the cause of the IBD. For ulcerative colitis, a proctocolectomy may be needed, in which the entire colon and rectum is removed. This will completely cure the ulcerative colitis, and the patient will then expel their waste into an outside bag.
In the case of Crohn's disease, about half of the people who have it will need surgery to treat it. When the disease goes through cycles of inflammation and repair, the inflamed piece of bowel becomes hard, and surgery becomes necessary. Other reasons to have surgery to treat Crohn's disease include the formation of fistulas, a hole in the bowel, or an abscess.
The surgery involves removing the damaged area of the digestive track and re-connecting the two healthy sections together. Since symptoms of Crohn's disease can appear anywhere along the digestive tract, surgery will not cure Crohn's disease, only temporarily remove the symptoms. Due to this, medication is usually the best method to treat the condition.
In addition to diet, medication and surgery, managing your stress and acupuncture are also possible ways to treat IBD. Whichever treatment method you choose, there is no reason why inflammatory bowel syndrome should control your life. To schedule an appointment with an IBD healthcare specialist, call (215) 234-1669 or contact Dr. Kenneth Varano online.
Address100 West Elm Street
Conshohocken, PA 19428
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tue: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wed: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thu: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm