December 1st through the 7th each year is set aside for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week. Since Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), we’re helping raise awareness this week by sharing the top 10 things you should know about IBD.
Ten Things You Should Know About IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
Let’s go over some of the things you should probably know about inflammatory bowel disease.
1. IBD is a chronic disease that impacts the gastrointestinal tract.
First, let’s start with the basics. What is inflammatory bowel disease?
Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic (long-term) disease that creates inflammation within the bowel and gut, creating mild to severe symptoms.
Sometimes, these symptoms of IBD are so severe, they can become disabling. This is primarily due to issues like pain, fatigue, blood loss, and dehydration.
2. The two types of IBD (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) aren’t the same.
The two most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While they both cause chronic inflammation in the body’s gastrointestinal and digestive tracts, they have some differences.
According to WebMD.com, the key differences come down to the affected locations of the body. Ulcerative colitis typically affects the colon and the rectum while Crohn’s disease can impact any part of the gastrointestinal system — even the mouth.
Also, they don’t always present with the same symptoms, and Crohn’s and colitis often require different approaches to treatment.
Crohn’s disease symptoms come intermittently. A person with Crohn’s disease may go a few days, weeks, or even months between symptom flare-ups. On the other hand, ulcerative colitis doesn’t really let up.
If you suspect you have IBD, it’s important to see a qualified gastroenterologist. They can perform tests for diagnosis and determine the correct course of treatment for the affected individual.
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not IBD.
Because the abbreviations IBD and IBS sound so similar, these two conditions often get mixed up. However, IBS and IBD are quite different.
First, IBS, which stands for irritable bowel syndrome, is much more common than IBD. According to AboutIBS.org, as many as 45 million people in the United States may have irritable bowel syndrome.
While inflammatory bowel disease is less common than IBS, as many as 1.6 million Americans may be living with its often invisible but severe symptoms.
Much like IBD, the symptoms of IBS can also range from mild to severe. However, it does not cause inflammation in the gut, which is why it’s classified as a syndrome rather than a chronic disease.
Symptoms of IBS can include constipation to diarrhea with mostly irregular bowel movements, cramps, gas, and mucus in the stool. While they do share some symptoms, IBD, on the other hand, can cause severe abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea with bloody stool, nausea, fatigue, weight loss, blood loss, bowel blockages, and more.
4. The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease is still unknown.
Currently, researchers have not been able to pinpoint a specific cause of inflammatory bowel disease, although it may be hereditary.
However, there may be some potential risk factors outside of genetics. For example, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may be related to IBD. This type of medication may also cause flare-ups in those already diagnosed with IBD.
Also, smoking may be a potential risk factor. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, “smokers may be more than twice as likely as nonsmokers to develop Crohn’s disease.”
5. Diet does not appear to cause IBD.
While having a healthy diet is no doubt important to overall health, research doesn’t indicate that it causes or cures inflammatory bowel disease.
Of course, certain foods can sometimes cause more inflammation or irritation, which can make IBD symptoms flare. But there’s no evidence to suggest that any specific type of food is the root cause of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Talk to your doctor or a registered dietician about their recommendations for your diet and gut health, depending on your unique anatomy and needs.
6. Your doctor needs to know about any IBD symptoms you’re experiencing.
Are you experiencing unusual symptoms that make you concerned you may be dealing with IBD or another gastrointestinal issue? It’s important to bring these symptoms up to your doctor. They can make a referral to a gastroenterologist so they can begin performing tests to properly diagnose what’s going on.
Why is it important to get the right diagnosis? Because symptoms of other conditions can sometimes mimic inflammatory bowel disease. For example, conditions like food poisoning or C. diff can cause abdominal cramping, bloating, nausea, gas, and diarrhea.
Also, other conditions that can sometimes look like IBD could include diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, or even colon cancer.
Your doctor can help clear up any confusion about symptoms you’re dealing with. Plus, getting treatment for your specific condition may help restore your quality of life.
7. The type of IBD treatment option will depend on each individual.
Inflammatory bowel disease will typically require treatment of some kind. This can range from medication to ostomy surgery, but this all depends on the individual and how severe their IBD is.
One treatment option might involve eliminating food irritants from one’s diet if it’s known to cause symptom flare-ups.
Others may respond well to medication, which can be anything from anti-diarrheal drugs to prescription immunosuppressants in the form of injections.
Some people may also need Vitamin B12 shots, which may help with common related issues like anemia (loss of red blood cells).
For more severe cases, colostomy or ileostomy surgery may be necessary, although it’s often the last resort in treatment options. Ostomy surgery involves removing part or all of the colon and diverting the flow of fecal waste into an external ostomy pouch.
Other surgical options may be the creation of a J-Pouch, which is a j-shaped pouch made from a portion of the small intestine after the removal of the large intestine (colon). This then helps divert the waste back to the anus.
8. IBD doesn’t necessarily always lead to ostomy surgery.
Again, while IBD can be severe, having inflammatory bowel disease doesn’t always mean someone diagnosed with IBD will need an ostomy.
Talk to your doctor about what your options are. However, please know that if you do need an ostomy, you’re certainly not going to be alone. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States are living with an ostomy right now, including many in the 180 Medical Community.
Whether you’re facing ostomy surgery in the future or already familiar with your ostomy, 180 Medical’s friendly Ostomy Product Specialists can help you find product options that will fit and feel right for you.
Plus, we can connect you to a team of certified ostomy nurses who can help troubleshoot any medical concerns and answer questions. Just reach out to 180 Medical to request free ostomy product samples and get started.
9. IBD can also impact mental and emotional health.
The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease may have far-reaching effects beyond the body. Living with IBD can impact the overall quality of life, which includes emotional and mental health.
But why is that? Dealing with any type of chronic illness can create difficulties in the affected person’s life, such as:
- Ongoing worry and stress, which can lead to depression and anxiety
- Reduced productivity in school or work due to fatigue
- Feelings of isolation
- Disruption in personal relationships
Of course, getting treatment is the first step toward improving your quality of life. However, you may also benefit from additional helpful resources like education and support groups through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and the United Ostomy Associations of America. Through organizations like these, you can get peer support, find ways to get active with advocacy, and more.
10. Insurance plans often cover ostomy supplies.
If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, you should know there’s a good chance your health insurance may cover ostomy supplies, based on your prescription.
Medicare (Part B) will cover ostomy supplies, although they only cover a certain quantity of certain types per month. For instance, if you need drainable ostomy pouches, Medicare will cover up to 20 per month (every 30 days). Find out more in our article about Medicare coverage for ostomy supplies.
Some state Medicaid plans and private insurance plans may also cover some or all of the cost of your prescribed ostomy products.
It’s understandable if you’re unsure about how your insurance might cover your ostomy supplies. Each insurance plan has its own limits, allowable, and coverages. Luckily, 180 Medical has insurance experts on staff who can verify and demystify your coverage. Also, our ostomy specialists can answer any other questions you may have about your order or any other ostomy products we carry.
Take the first step in getting top-quality ostomy supplies from a reliable provider by contacting 180 Medical. We’re ready to help.