IBD facts page

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the name for an unpreventable, complex, chronic, relapsing and often debilitating group of lifelong gastrointestinal conditions that do not yet have a cure. Its two main forms are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Both are caused when the intestine’s immune system responds aggressively or inappropriately to intestinal matter and attacks healthy tissue inside the digestive system. Symptoms can include acute diarrhea, rectal bleeding, loss of appetite, fatigue, and intense cramping and abdominal pain.

Although IBD affects as many British Columbians as Type 1 diabetes, it is not well known or understood by those who are not directly affected. Because this disease is embarrassing to talk about, many people with IBD suffer in silence while the disease disrupts their daily lives.

Unfortunately, IBD is much more than just a painful physical ailment. It affects many facets of everyday life. For instance, it’s hard for people with IBD to make social plans because they constantly worry about not being close enough to a washroom. They may feel ostracized because their peers don’t understand their disease and may need to downplay its severity. They not only have to worry about medications and sometimes ostomy bags, but also about being made fun of by their peers.

Did you know?


  • What is Crohn’s disease?

    Crohn’s disease was named after the doctor who first described it in 1932. It appears as inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, usually affecting the end of the ileum (small bowel) and the upper colon — although it can appear anywhere from the mouth to the anus. It can affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall and can be “patchy,” with normal, healthy areas of the intestine interspersed with diseased, inflamed areas.

  • What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

    Symptoms of Crohn’s disease may include:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Cramping
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Reduced appetite
    • Weight loss
  • What is ulcerative colitis?

    Unlike Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is more localized, marked by inflammation of the inner lining of bowel tissue in the colon (the large intestine, rectum and anus). The inflammation usually starts at the rectum and extends upwards through the colon.

  • What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

    Symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include:

    • Severe and bloody diarrhea
    • False urges to have a bowel movement
    • Abdominal pain and cramping
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Decreased appetite
    • Weight loss
    • Mild fever
    • Anemia
    • Loss of body fluids