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University of South Florida

Could My Stomachache Be Something More? Understanding IBD

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term used to describe a family of inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Are IBD and IBS the Same?

People often confuse IBD with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBD is a chronic disease involving inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that encompasses two main conditions, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In contrast, IBS is a recurring gastrointestinal disorder that causes abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements without inflammation to the GI tract.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over three million Americans live with IBD.  With a timely diagnosis and treatment plan, IBD can be managed. Given there is no cure for IBD, the goal is to put the disease into remission. Patients can lead full and active lives after being diagnosed with IBD.

Making a diagnosis, finding a health care team you trust, and meeting with your team regularly are the first steps towards controlling the disease. Recognizing that you will need lifelong follow-up is equally important long term.

“Finding a health care team that you can coordinate with and develop a relationship with where all of your needs are met is vital to the treatment process as the disease can affect more than just your GI tract,” said Dr. Jennifer Seminerio, gastroenterology specialist and director of the USF Health IBD Center.

Treating the whole person with multidisciplinary team care is the approach taken at the USF Health IBD Center.

Endoscopy and biopsy are necessary for diagnosing IBD. Imaging, blood work and stool studies are used to help determine severity, treatment effects or confounders of disease.

Sharing family history of IBD or colon cancer and triggers with your doctor, such as stressful life events, can help gain insight into possible treatment options. Additionally, ensuring your team is aware of supplements and dietary changes can help promote a complementary approach to care.

Recognizing the Symptoms

The symptoms of IBD are much like stomach ailments that most people experience from time to time, but if you experience chronic symptoms, it may be time to pay a visit to your doctor

The most common symptoms may include:

  • Bloating and gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation and or diarrhea, sometimes alternating between the two
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Blood in the stool

Crohn’s Disease (CD) vs Ulcerative Colitis (UC)

CD and UC may present themselves in a similar fashion, but they are different conditions.

Although similar, some differences are:

  • CD can affect any part of the GI tract, including the small intestine, and UC is limited to the colon and disease spreads in a continuous manner starting in the rectum.
  • CD can have skip lesions where patches of the disease occur in different parts of the GI tract, and UC is continuous but can be isolated the rectum, left side of the colon or pancolonic in nature.
  • CD can affect all bowel wall layers (transmural), and UC only affects the mucosal layer.
  • Both can experience remission and flair with quiet periods and times when the disease is aggressive.

Our providers at USF Health will explain the difference and the best course of treatment, which include individualized treatment plans.

“The USF Health IBD Center is dedicated to treating all patients with CD and UC while ensuring they receive expertise beyond the GI tract, including dietary services, psychological services, wound care and surgical options,” said Dr. Seminerio.

Our providers at USF Health will explain the difference and the best course of treatment, which include individualized treatment plans.

“The USF Health IBD center is dedicated to treating all patients with CD and UC while ensuring they receive expertise beyond the GI tract, including dietary services, psychological services, wound care and surgical options,” said Dr. Seminerio.

Taking a Multidisciplinary Approach

A treatment plan may include multiple team members such as a gastroenterologist, dietitian, social worker, primary care provider, surgeon, wound care specialist, and obstetrician.  The USF Health IBD Center treatment plans focus on the whole person and making life better.

Our GI adult and pediatric teams work with the community to encourage wellness, support, educate, and advocate.

We are partnering with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to raise funds and awareness as we search for a cure.

We invite you to join us for Tampa Bay Take Steps Walk on 04/30/2022! Click here for more information.

To book an appointment, call (813) 821-8033 or visit our Telehealth page to learn how to book an appointment. Have an account with MyChart? Simply log in to request or manage your next appointment.

USF Health Making Life Better

Written by Ercilia Colón

 

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