Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) covers a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed (red and swollen), usually as a result of an immune reaction of the body against its own intestinal tissue.
Researchers do not know what causes inflammatory bowel disease, therefore, it is called an idiopathic disease (disease with an unknown cause). Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the most common inflammatory bowel diseases. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon (large intestine) and Crohn's disease can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract.
IBD varies in intensity and severity. When there is severe inflammation, the disease is considered to be in an active stage, and the person experiences a flare-up of the condition. When the degree of inflammation is less (or absent), the person usually is without symptoms, and the disease is considered to be in remission. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and generally depend upon the part of the intestinal tract involved. They might include the abdominal cramps and pain, bloody diarrhea, severe urge to have a bowel movement, loss of appetite, weight loss and anemia.
Oftentimes an unknown factor/agent (or a combination of factors) triggers the body’s immune system to produce an inflammatory reaction in the intestinal tract that continues without control. As a result of the inflammatory reaction, the intestinal wall is damaged leading to bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain. Since inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic disease (lasting a long time), those affected go through periods in which the disease flares up and causes symptoms. These periods are followed by remission, in which symptoms disappear or decrease and good health returns.