Living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Abdominal pain, cramping and diarrhea – was it something you ate or maybe a nasty virus? You’d feel better for a while, but when the symptoms returned again and again, you knew something else was going on. After your doctor ruled out other possible causes, diagnostic testing confirmed you had inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.

Washington University gastroenterologist and director of the IBD Service, Matthew Ciorba, MD, explains, “As many as three million Americans have inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s can cause inflammation, ulcers and bleeding anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, whereas UC is limited to sores in the wall of the large intestine. Both diseases show up most often in the late teens and early 20s, but they can appear later in life as well.

Symptoms of both conditions include diarrhea, fever and fatigue, abdominal pain and cramping, bloody stool, reduced appetite and unintended weight loss. Because IBD is linked to increased colon cancer risk, it’s important to see a doctor if symptoms appear.”

Dr. Ciorba understands that the condition’s psychological and social effects can be just as tough to handle as the physical ones. Patients worry about flare-ups, and often feel they have to stay at home or keep close to a restroom at all times. He knows they are sometimes embarrassed to talk to a doctor – but they shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, because they are not alone.

Although it is an autoimmune condition, the exact cause of IBD is not known. Crohn’s and UC are complex diseases, but there are new medications and treatments available to offer patients a better quality of life.

Dr. Ciorba says, “We treat the person, not just the disease. The Washington University team of gastroenterologists creates a personalized comprehensive treatment program for every patient that includes diet and lifestyle changes to keep the symptoms under control. Patients also have the assistance of a gastrointestinal-health psychologist and nutritional counselor.  

Washington University researchers are among the leading investigators in IBD-related genetics and our patients have access to the latest clinical trials.”

For more information on IBD, or to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist, please call 314-747-IBD6 (4236)

Center for Advanced Medicine
4921 Parkview Place, Suite 8C
St. Louis, MO 63110