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IBD vs IBS: The Facts

I am here today to discuss the differences between Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Many of the symptoms are identical, but these two conditions are completely different.

Click the graphic to see a larger version.

IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Spastic Colon): A syndrome is a group of signs or symptoms that are grouped together and characterized as a single condition. Symptoms of IBS are diarrhea and/or constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal cramping and mucus in the stools. It affects between 25-45 million Americans. About 2 in 3 people with IBS are female. Most people with IBS are under the age of 50.

Although the cause of IBS is not known, it is believed that stress, anxiety and "trigger" foods play a role in aggravating the symptoms. IBS can be mild to severe. For some it is a minor irritation, while others who experience severe symptoms, may struggle emotionally and socially. People with more severe cases may even experience depression.

IBS is unpredictable, but there are many treatments available to effectively help those who suffer. Most patients will not seek doctors for treatment and have been able to keep their symptoms at bay using over the counter methods or making simple diet changes. Hospitalization for people with IBS is very rare.

IBD - Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis & Crohn's Disease): A disease is a disorder of structure or function and in general produces specific symptoms that affect a specific location. Like IBS, symptoms of IBD include diarrhea and/or constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal cramping and mucus in the stools. Other symptoms of IBD that are not present in IBS are fever, ulcers, bloody stools, anemia, vomiting and inflammation. Over 1.4 million Americans have IBD and it affects men and women equally. In general, it is diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 30.

Like IBS, the cause of IBD is unknown, although it is believed that genetics and environmental factors (such as gut microbiome) play a part. Anxiety may be a trigger for flareups in some people. Food does not cause IBD, but some foods may cause irritation and make symptoms worse for patients. These "trigger" foods vary from person to person. IBD ranges from mild, moderate to severe and people often struggle emotionally and socially. Many patients will experience depression at some point during active disease. Some have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

IBD, is also unpredictable. The treatments for it range from mild to very harsh medications. Some patients are even treated with chemotherapy-type drugs. Other drugs include steroids such as Prednisone and harsh immunosuppressants. Others have found success with the treatment of drugs like Humira, Simponi and Remicade. Unfortunately, many patients have found themselves hospitalized for dehydration and various other complications from disease. Others have needed surgeries and some patients with IBD end up with permanent ostomies.

No two patients are the same and one medication that helps one person may not help another. Their treatments may also change with time as some methods stop working, forcing them to try other drugs on a trial and error basis.

I am NOT a doctor. This post is not meant to help treat or diagnose. If you are having problems, please see a healthcare professional. 

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