Not Sure If You Have IBS or IBD? It’s Worth Finding Out
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are inflammatory diseases of the bowel (IBD, for Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
There’s a lot of confusion out there (among the general public but also among doctors) about what IBD is. Though IBD and IBS (which stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome) are only one letter apart, they are 2 conditions that could not be more different.
IBS is a condition characterized by symptoms that can be a nuisance for sure, but don’t usually cause major health problems. More info on IBS can be found here.
IBD, on the other hand, is a serious illness that usually requires daily mediation to treat. You can’t diagnose yourself with IBD – it requires some investigations and a good history by a doctor to confirm. If you aren’t sure if your primary care doctor told you had IBD or IBS, chances are, it was IBS… This is something you should absolutely confirm before you meet with any new doctor.
Having IBD is an important part of your medical history, and has implications for your your overall health, cancer screening, what medications other doctors can prescribe to you even for conditions that have nothing to do with the GI tract, and influences how they will interpret some of your laboratory tests.
Another thing worth noting is that sometimes, when doctors are referring to IBD involving the colon, they call it “colitis.” This does not mean that any and all colitis is IBD. Confused yet? Colitis is a general term that describes any inflammation of the colon – that inflammation can be caused a chronic condition (IBD), or it can be caused a whole bunch of other things, like having eaten some bad chicken or drinking the water in Mexico. Often, that colitis resolves on its own or with a short course of treatment – and has nothing to do with IBD.
Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis are serious, chronic conditions that require oversight and care from a gastroenterologist. The good news is that there are some good treatment options now, so many people can achieve remission and have long periods of time without any symptoms at all.