Understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Learn more about the differences of IBS and IBD

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

IBD is a chronic disease of your intestinal tract. Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis collectively are referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and ulcers anywhere in the GI tract from the mouth to the anus.

Ulcerative Colitis is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and ulcers as well, but is limited to the colon and rectal areas.

IBD can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are similar to other gastrointestinal disorders. Symptoms may include diarrhea with blood or mucous, abdominal pain and weight loss. IBD is typically based on a correlation of symptoms and biopsy results from an EGD and/or colonoscopy.

An EGD is a test that examines the esophagus, stomach, and a top portion of the small bowel called the duodenum. A colonoscopy examines the colon (large intestine). Biopsies are taken and then reviewed by a pathologist who can determine if there is evidence of Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis.

How is IBS different from IBD?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not a disease. It is a syndrome with symptoms similar to IBD; however, IBS does not cause inflammation and will not show up on a colonoscopy. IBS will not cause damage to the body the way IBD does.  

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