Get Informed

Get Informed : The Basic Facts

Okay, first things first:  What on earth is IBD? The official definition of IBD is Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  (I like to say Icky Belly Disease).

IBD can be grouped in to two categories:  Crohn’s disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC).  Both Crohn’s and UC have similar symptoms, reactions and medications but they differ in what part of the intestinal system the disease affects (or where it lives!).  In Crohn’s disease everything from ‘gum to bum’ is affected and the affected area may move along the digestive tract (all 9 metres of it!).  Whereas, with Ulcerative Colitis the only area affected is the large intestine - the colon.  The affected areas may become inflamed, cause sores and bleed. Symptoms vary and include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, nausea, weight loss and stomach pain. Colitis also causes you to have frequent trips to the bathroom (and not much time to get there!). You can feel pretty tired from this so don't be surprised at the fatigue. Some other side effects include non-gastrointestinal symptoms such as arthritis, mouth ulcers eye problems and skin problems (red bumps). These are all normal although don't always make sense.

IBD is a chronic condition (yes, that means we are in it for life!) that currently has no cure but it doesn't mean that you are sick all the time.  There are periods of remission where you will be almost completely or completely without symptoms and then periods of “flare-ups” aka active disease periods (when you feel sick and have the symptoms of the disease).  IBD affects everyone differently and some people stay in remission for years while others are not so lucky and stay in remission only for a short while (i.e. couple days or weeks).  Flare ups can be random or can stay consistent until the right medication is found or surgery is performed. 

There is not one cure or treatment for IBD and it affects people very differently. Medication, nutrition therapy, alternative therapies, and surgery might be part of your treatment.

One startling fact is that Canada has the highest incidence rate of IBD in the world with nearly 200,000 people diagnosed. Who gets it? Hard to say as IBD affects all people regardless of age, race or gender. For youth it is a big concern as more people are diagnosed between 15 and 25 than at any other time in life.

There is no known cause for IBD but the CCFC is investing heavily in research to try to get to the bottom of this.The common idea now is that a combination of Genetic (your family and dna!), Environmental (food, climate, etc) and Microbial (bacteria) factors need to be present. Visit the research section of our CCFC website and you can read more about our research.

Getting Diagnosed- The A, B, C’s!

If you think your symptoms sound like IBD, talk to your family doctor. They are most familiar with you and your family history and will be able to give you some direction. They will most likely send you for some initial tests or immediately refer you to a GI (Gastroenterologist) specialist. 

The Gastroenterologist has all of the fun tools to help diagnose you….there are a couple different ways it can be determined if you have IBD. (See glossary for more information on these tests).

Colonscopy and Biopsy
Barium Enema
Blood tests
Upper GI

After you have been through a slew of tests and had white liquid poured down your throat and tests performed on your key parts, you’ll have to wait….your GI or the Radiologist (X-ray reader) will inform your doctor of the results and further verification may be needed if they suspect IBD. 

(Excerpt from 'The Gutsy Generation' Newly Diagnosed Tipsheet, 2008)

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Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada