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Inflammatory Disease of the Bowel " Part One"

Inflammatory diseases of the bowel

The bowel can develop redness and inflammation in these illnesses. Ulcerative colitis involves the lining of the large bowel. Crohn's disease can involve any area of the digestive tract and the bowel wall can become inflamed throughout its full thickness. If the patient has symptoms affecting the colon it is difficult to know if it is ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease affecting the organ.

Why does ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease come on?

The reasons for the onset of these conditions are not known. People who suffer from them may have a defence mechanism against normally present gut bacteria which acts abnormally. A longstanding reaction to a specific virus or bacterium may be significant. There may be an increased susceptibility in some families but the likelihood of transferring the problem to children is low.

Ulcerative colitis symptoms

Symptoms can be troublesome variably throughout a person's life. Typically people suffering from ulcerative colitis are well and do not have symptoms, a disease condition known as remission. Relapses occur when the disease flares up again, with the resulting relapses being unpredictable in terms of being worse than before, or better or similar to previous ones. Urgent need to pass mucus and blood with the stool, a general tiredness, abdominal pain prior to passing stool and diarrhoea in severe flare ups are the typical symptoms. If the condition affects only the rectum, the final part of the bowel, it is called proctitis and the typical symptoms are the passing of blood and mucus but in the absence of diarrhoea. 

Crohn's disease symptoms

Crohn's disease also tends to be a life-long problem. It has similar flare-ups and times of inactivity as ulcerative colitis. The symptoms are variable because Crohn's can affect any part of the bowel. The most common symptoms are:

Ulceration, inflammation or fistulas occurring around the anus.

Abdominal pain. The inflammation either causes pain directly or causes narrowing of the bowel (stricture) resulting in gripey pains and bloating (distension) with wind.

Loss of body weight from an appetite reduction due to active disease being present as well as potentially poor absorption of nutrients.

Loss of weight. Appetite is reduced when the disease is active and there may also be poor absorption of nutrients. 

In some patients a leak (fistula) develops through the inflamed bowel into another organ, such as skin, bladder or vagina, causing a discharge.

Bleeding can occur with diarrhoea.

What causes the disease to relapse?

It is not always possible to identify the causes of relapse and even when the trigger occurrence is identified this is not the cause of the condition. Possible reasons are:

Dietary intake. Milk products can make people react and then they should try a diet free from milk. Particular foods, for example cereals, can produce an unwelcome reaction. Excluding the trigger foods from the diet and then re-introducing them later is useful.

Anti-arthritis drugs, antibiotics and aspirin.

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