I am often frustrated by the lack of understanding people have with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Since IBD sufferers don’t always look sick, people are quick to say things such as “you need to relax,” or “its all in your head,” or “take some immodium/pepcid/pepto bismol” and all sorts of other things. Many people who have never heard of IBD may confuse it with what many refer to as nervous stomach, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, the two conditions have some very important differences. Irritable Bowel Syndrome Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects as many as 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. IBS sufferers experience chronic, recurrent abdominal pain, sudden bouts of diarrhea, belching, excessive gas and constipation.
Symptoms Below is a comparison of the symptoms common to both irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Inflammatory Bowel Disease Diarrhea Diarrhea Crampy, abdominal pain Crampy, abdominal pain Belching Belching Excessive gas Excessive gas Constipation Constipation Vomiting Fever Weight loss Blood in stool There may be other symptoms for each condition. As you can see, symptoms overlap, which can make it difficult to diagnose whether a person has IBS or IBD. Microscopic evaluation and colonoscopy of the intestine may offer the only clue.
While these symptoms are similar to those that IBD sufferers experience, following is one easy way I have found to describe the difference between the two conditions to those unfamiliar with IBD. In inflammatory bowel disease, your digestive tract is actually diseased. This may not be the most scientific or attractive way to describe IBD or the difference between the two conditions. But in trying to help people understand why IBD can be so serious and why there isn’t a quick fix, I find this explanation helps.
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