Noticing any changes in your bowel habits? When patients visit, they often describe troublesome abdominal pain and bowel movements that don’t seem quite right. A quick web search for these symptoms will turn up conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Naturally, many patients are concerned about the possibility that they may have one of these conditions. What are the differences between these two?
IBS and IBD sound similar, but are quite different in the ways they affect patients. IBS is a non-inflammatory condition. While a specific cause is not known, we do know that it is linked to increased intestinal movement and nerve sensitivity. Patients with IBS commonly have symptoms such as cramping or bloating abdominal pain along with either looser stools or constipation or both. IBS can sometimes become worse with eating and get better after bowel movements. IBS can also appear after having had an infection.
IBD, which includes both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, is an inflammatory bowel condition. The specific cause of IBD is not known. What we do know is that it is an autoimmune condition. In patients with IBD, there are antibodies and other immune response cells that see the intestinal lining as a foreign invader and try to eliminate it from the intestinal tract. This creates an inflammatory response that can cause significant damage over time. We can see the damage in imaging studies and when we look directly at the tissue during colonoscopy. IBD can also affect other areas of the body, for example, causing mouth sores or joint pain.
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis differ in that Crohn’s Disease can affect the entire intestinal tract in multiple areas at the same time, usually the small intestine and the colon. Ulcerative Colitis affects only the colon. Take a look at the follow symptoms of these conditions.
Short periods of diarrhea and/or constipation
Short periods of cramping or bloating abdominal pain
Persistent abdominal pain
Mucous in stool
Bloody mucous in stool
If you are experiencing any symptoms of IBS or IBD, an accurate diagnosis is always critical. We urge you to call our office, 215-402-0800, for an examination.