We are a specialized Gastroenterology practice in Johannesburg and work closely with each patient to develop ongoing, effective treatment plans that improve and maintain overall health and nutrition while minimizing side effects and relieving the discomfort and stress of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Understanding Crohn’s disease can help you and your loved ones navigate the uncertainty that comes with a new diagnosis.
What is IBD?
IBD causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which begins at the mouth and extends through the stomach and intestines to the anus. IBD is a long-term condition with no cure, however, there are treatment options available.
What Causes IBD?
As of today, the exact cause of IBD is unknown, but IBD is the result of a defective or unhealthy immune system. A properly functioning immune system attacks foreign organisms, such as viruses and bacteria, to protect the body. In IBD, the immune system responds incorrectly to environmental triggers, which causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, someone with a family history of IBD is more likely to develop this disease.
How Do You Know If You Have IBD?
A person with IBD will generally go through periods in which the disease appears in cycles, followed by periods in which symptoms decrease or disappear and good health returns.
Symptoms of IBD include:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Pain, cramps or swelling in the tummy
- Recurring or bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Extreme tiredness
Risk Factors for Developing Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The biggest risk factors for developing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis include:
IBD is more common among smokers, and smoking can also make symptoms worse in these patients.
IBD is present in all populations. However, IBD is more common in whites of northern European descent and the Jewish population.
IBD can happen at any age, but in most cases, it starts before the age of 35.
People who have a parent, sibling, or child with IBD are at a much higher risk for developing it themselves.
People who live in Western countries like the United States and Europe have a higher IBD risk than those in other parts of the world. The reason could be lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, or pollution.
In general, IBD affects both genders. However, Crohn’s disease is more common among women.
Sidenote: If you are looking for more in-depth research information about IBD, we recommend reading the online journals found here
To diagnose IBD, a doctor will typically start by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. They may also order one or more of the following tests to aid their diagnosis:
- Your first tests will likely include laboratory tests of your blood and stool.
- Further testing could include X-rays of the upper and lower GI tract and either blood, stool endoscopy or colonoscopy test if needed. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope into the rectum. The doctor can check the entire colon for polyps or cancer.
How is IBD Treated?
Although there is no cure for IBD, the goal of treatment is to help patients achieve remission, avoid relapses and have the best quality of life. Treatment for IBD involves a combination of self-care and medical treatment.
While Crohn’s disease may not be the result of bad reactions to specific foods, paying special attention to your diet may help reduce symptoms, replace lost nutrients, and promote healing. It’s important to talk with your doctor about ways to modify your diet while making sure you get the nutrients you need.
Medication treating Crohn’s disease is designed to suppress your immune system’s abnormal inflammatory response that is causing your symptoms. Suppressing inflammation not only offers relief from common symptoms like fever, diarrhea, and pain, it also allows your intestinal tissues to heal. Surgery becomes necessary when medications can no longer control symptoms.
If you’re confused about all the medications and types of surgeries available, it is important to review the risks and benefits of all treatment options with your Gastroenterologist.
Frequently Asked Questions about IBD :
Is there a cure for IBD?
There is currently no cure for IBD.
How long will IBD last?
IBD is a lifelong condition. A few patients find their disease becomes milder (“burned out”) after age 60, but many do not.
Do I have to take medicine forever?
Because there is no cure for IBD at the moment, most patients do need to take medications to ease their symptoms and reduce the number and severity of flare episodes.
Are there some medicines that can get me out of a flare quickly?
Yes. These are not necessarily used long term because of side effects though.
Is there any additional information where I can learn more about Crohn's disease or IBD in general?
We recommend going to the South African Medical Journal’s (SAMJ) website for more information.
Why do I need to keep taking medicines when I feel well?
Medications are needed to reduce the number and severity of flares.
Why Might I need a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is used to make the initial diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. A colonoscopy can also assess the symptoms of IBD flares and the response to treatment. Lastly, a colonoscopy can also be used for early colon cancer screening.
Will surgery cure my IBD?
No, surgery does not cure the disease but can help reduce symptoms. For patients with Crohn’s disease, surgery can remove the parts of the intestine that are scarred or are not extremely inflamed.
Could any condition other than IBD be causing my symptoms?
Yes. Patients with IBD can get IBD-like symptoms for other reasons. This is why you should visit a gastroenterologist if there is a change in your symptoms because it might not be a flare of IBD.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.
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© Dr. H Schneider, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Johannesburg
Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.