Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Women

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Women

Inflammatory bowel disease in women causes vexing symptoms that come and go and then disappear for months or years only to return. Inflammatory bowel disease is the term used to describe conditions that cause the bowel or intestine to become inflamed. Affected individuals complain about abdominal pain, watery stool and blood-tinged stools.  Some women only have mild symptoms while others suffer the more severe form.

The treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in women aims to help sufferers manage their condition. It is designed based on the specific needs of the patient and works in reducing the severity of the symptoms during flare-ups. Patients are often encouraged to modify their lifestyle habits by eating healthy, doing regular exercises and avoiding smoking or alcohol. Medications may likewise be prescribed to help manage the symptoms. Finally, surgery is an option for women who have severe IBD symptoms.

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What happens in Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

IBD is a condition wherein the intestines or bowels are inflamed due to virus or bacteria. Inflammation could also be caused by an abnormal immune response. Under normal conditions, the immune system works in warding off bacteria and viruses which can cause infections from the body. The system normally shuts off once it has cleared the body of infections. However, in IBD, the immune system is found to overreact even to the good bacteria residing in the gastrointestinal tract.  Since it does not shut off it results in the swelling of the gastrointestinal tract.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease comes in several forms, the most common of which are Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. These two diseases have been confused with each other because they both affect the digestive tract. However, the areas affected by these diseases are different.

  • Ulcerative Colitis

In ulcerative colitis, the inflamed area is the upper layer of the colon or large intestine. This inflammation can cause ulcers to develop and eventually produce pus. The lining of the colon can be weakened by the ulcers which could create holes, causing the waste products and bacteria to leak into the stomach and bloodstream. Ulcerative colitis prevents the colon from absorbing water therefore resulting to diarrhea.

  • Crohn’s Disease

In Crohn’s Disease, inflammation is often found on the end part and first part of the small and large intestines, respectively. However, swelling could also occur in other areas of the digestive tract. The inflammation appears in patches and disrupts nutrient absorption in the small intestine as well as water absorption in the large intestine, hence, causing diarrhea.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome as the latter is a less serious functional disorder and does not damage the digestive tract.

What causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease in women?

Experts are still unsure about the exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease in women. Research showed that there is equal distribution of IBD in both genders. Besides, food and stress do not trigger IBD symptoms, though they could worsen them. However, there are things that could increase the chances of an individual developing IBD, and these are:

  • Family history

IBD can be inherited. Affected individuals could pass on the defective genes causing the abnormal immune response to their offspring. Statistics have shown that 15% to 30% of IBD patients have relatives suffering from the disease as well.

  • Endometriosis

Recent studies showed that women suffering from endometriosis have higher chances of developing IBD.

  • Environmental factors

IBD had been found to affect more people living farther from the equator. This was revealed in a recent study showing high rates of IBD in Americans and white people with African descent, although it rarely occurs in Africa. Environmental factors also include sedentary lifestyle and urbanized living.

IBD is estimated to affect around 1 million Americans with patients exhibiting symptoms as early as 15 years old but only get diagnosed between 27 and 30 years old. The disorder had likewise been found to affect a small number of individuals in their 60s.

What are the effects of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in women?

Inflammatory bowel disease in women causes annoying and unpleasant symptoms such mild to severe abdominal cramps and pain as well as diarrhea. The disease also makes the patient experience nausea, weight loss, lethargy and unexplained fever.

IBD symptoms should not be ignored as the condition could lead to other health problems, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Gallstones and kidney stones
  • Weak bones
  • Eye problems
  • Skin ulcers
  • Growth problems
  • Lung problems
  • Inflamed liver

On the other hand, inflammatory bowel disease in women does not cause infertility problems, which means women who suffer from the condition, could still get pregnant. It should be noted that IBD has a remission stage which could last from months to years and women who conceive during this remission will stay in this stage. Meanwhile, those who conceive when the IBD is active will continue to suffer from it throughout the course of the pregnancy.

What does diagnosis and treatment of IBD in women involve?

Diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease in women involves going through myriad of diagnostic tests, like:

  • Blood test and stool sample
  • Imaging tests like X-ray, colonoscopy and CT scan
  • Capsule endoscopy

IBD treatment options include:

  • Dietary and lifestyle changes
  • Medications
  • Therapies
  • Surgeries
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