What Are the Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What Are the Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What Are the Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease, caused by an autoimmune disorder, is an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract. The digestive tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and anus. The main functions of the digestive tract are to digest foods, absorb nutrients from foods, and discharge wastes. Inflammatory bowel disease—in which the immune cells attack the cells and tissues of the digestive tract, mistaking them as foreign—induces chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes malfunctions of the digestive tract. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease often suffer from chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, and, in severe cases, loss of life. In the US, 1.4 million people are afflicted with inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease can be divided into two types:

• Ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis—characterized by cellular inflammation, ulceration, and pus formation in the innermost layer of the colon—is an inflammatory disease of the colon. Inflammation and ulceration lead to abdominal pain and diarrhea. Ulcerative colitis is caused by the immune system sending a large amount of leukocytes and other immune cells to the colon to fight against foods, bacteria, or other substances in the colon, mistaking them for foreign invaders, resulting in an inflamed and ulcerated colon.

• Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease resembles ulcerative colitis. However, there are distinct differences between the two. Ulcerative colitis affects only the colon, while Crohn's disease affects the entire digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. The junction between the small and large intestines is the most vulnerable region in Crohn's disease. Additionally, ulcerative colitis only injures the innermost layer of the colon, while Crohn's disease injures the entire wall of the digestive tract.

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