Inflammatory Bowel Disease | Overview

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What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease is the name of a group of disorders that cause the intestines to become inflamed (red and swollen). The inflammation lasts a long time and usually comes back over and over again. More than 600,000 Americans have some kind of inflammatory bowel disease every year.

If you have inflammatory bowel disease, you may have abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, weight loss and bleeding from your intestines. Two kinds of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease is an IBD that causes ulcers to form in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract anywhere from the mouth to the anus. Some people who have Crohn's disease have severe symptoms, while others have less severe symptoms. Some people who have the disease have long periods without symptoms, even without getting treatment. Others with more severe disease will need long-term treatment or even surgery.

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis (say: “ul-sir-uh-tiv cole-eye-tiss”) is an IBD that causes your colon (a part of your large intestine) to become red and swollen. The redness and swelling can last for a few weeks or for several months. Symptoms may come and go for up to a year. These occurrences are called flare-ups.

Bibliography

See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/11
Created: 01/98

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