Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

This term refers to two conditions of the bowel; ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease and should not be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Ulcerative colitis is characterised by inflammation of the rectum and colon to a variable extent, whilst Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. The incidence is uncommon with 10-20 cases per 100,000 of UC and 5-10 cases per 100,000 of Crohn's per year. The cause of IBD  is not known but it is thought to be due to environmental triggers in susceptible people.

People with UC typically present with bloody diarrhoea whilst symptoms from Crohn's disease often include abdominal (tummy) pain, diarrhoea and weight loss. Diagnosis often requires a combination of tests including colonoscopy (a special telescope examination of the large bowel),  CT scan or contrast studies.

Treatment is usually required and may involve a course of steroids to initially  control the disease followed by other medication to prevent further inflammation in the bowel. Surgery is sometimes required for patients in whom symptoms fail to settle or progress on medication, or who develop complications such as bowel perforation  or blockage. Often it is possible to perform laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.