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Digestive health centre

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is not a single condition, but an overall term for conditions which include the most common types of IBD: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

IBD affects about one person in 250 in the UK.

Causes of inflammatory bowel disease

The causes of these conditions are not yet known. However, there is evidence to suggest that these more common forms of inflammatory bowel disease are caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, environmental factors and problems with the body's immune system where for an unexplained reason it attacks the body’s healthy tissue.

There is strong evidence to suggest a genetic basis for IBD, including:

  • Family history: A family history of inflammatory bowel disease is the single most significant risk factor for a person developing IBD. Scientists have identified a number of genes which appear to increase a person's risk of developing IBD. Understanding the genetic roots of IBD may lead to better screening and treatment in future.
  • Sex: IBD affects slightly more women than it does men.
  • Race and ethnicity: IBD is most prevalent among Jewish people of European origin. IBD is more common in white people than it is in black people or those with Asian origins.

IBD treatment

The two main IBD conditions, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are treated with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and immunosuppressants to block the destructive way the immune system may turn on itself. If medication is not effective, surgery may be considered.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on July 29, 2016

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