A colon with several inflamed areas

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term that encompasses two chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract—ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. As many as 5 million people worldwide (including 1.6 million Americans) live with a form of IBD.

Symptoms of both forms of IBD overlap and include abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and an urgent need to move the bowels. 

While there is no cure for either form of IBD, there are effective treatments to keep the disease in remission. Medical and surgical advancements are occurring every year, and most people with IBD achieve remission and are able to preserve their quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes IBD?

    There is no known specific cause of IBD, making it what is known as an idiopathic disease. Researchers believe that a malfunctioning immune system, genetics, and certain lifestyle factors contribute to the disease.

  • What is the difference between IBS and IBD?

    IBS is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by abdominal pain and change in bowel habits. IBD is a disorder characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and, in the case of Crohn's disease, can also affect other organ systems such as skin, joints, eyes, liver. IBS is classified as a syndrome, while IBD is classified as a disease.

  • How is IBD diagnosed?

    Because symptoms of IBD, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, can mimic those of other gastrointestinal conditions, it can be challenging to get an accurate diagnosis. Keeping a diary of your symptoms is useful for your doctor, who will likely order blood and liver function tests, as well as imaging tests including a colonoscopy and a sigmoidoscopy.

Key Terms

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Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hammer T, Nielsen KR, Munkholm P, Burisch J, Lynge E. The Faroese IBD Study: Incidence of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Across 54 Years of Population-based Data. J Crohns Colitis. 2016;10(8):934-42.

Additional Reading