The general term idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease. These are conditions that cause chronic inflammation in the intestine; Ulcerative Colitis affects only the large intestine, while Crohn’s Disease can affect the gastrointestinal tract along its entire length.
It is estimated that 2 million people in Europe and North America suffer from IBD, while the number of diagnosed cases is rising in recent years.
Although the exact etiology of these diseases remains unknown, it is believed that a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors are involved.
The unhealthy lifestyle of Western societies, the fast-food consumption, the overuse of drugs, as well as infections caused by viruses and bacteria, are some of the factors that trigger an overreaction of the intestine and eventually lead to the establishment of inflammation in it.
In ulcerative colitis, only the intestinal mucosa is affected, while in Crohn’s Disease all the layers of the intestinal wall are affected.
The main symptoms of IBD are abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, mucus discharge, fatigue, weight loss, which are characterized by relapses and exacerbations. There are manifestations of the disease outside the digestive tract with the most prevalent being iridocyclitis, nodular erythema, aphthous stomatitis, arthritis and osteoporosis.
The main method for the diagnosis of these diseases is colonoscopy, while gastroscopy can also provide important information. A key advantage of endoscopies is the ability to obtain biopsies from the gastrointestinal tract.
Various medicines are used in the treatment of IBD, with corticosteroids playing a key role. Other drugs are sulfasalazine, mesalazine, antibiotics and immunosuppressants, such as cyclosporine and azathioprine. In recent years, special biological agents, immunomodulatory drugs, such as Infliximab and Adalimumab have been added to our therapeutic arsenal.
A balanced diet is important in IBD, as well as the avoidance of foods (seeds) that can cause intestinal obstruction.
In cases of acute intestinal infection, such as toxic colitis, but also in cases of cancer, surgery is advisable.
It is very important for the patient who has been diagnosed with IBD, to have regular check-ups with colonoscopy, in order to monitor the progression of the disease and to prevent the possible occurrence of cancer.