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IBD Diagnosis: Symptoms, Causes, and Complications

IBD Diagnosis: Symptoms, Causes, and Complications

IBD or inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for diseases that cause chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Read on to learn more about having an IBD diagnosis, what symptoms to watch out for, inflammatory bowel disease treatment, as well as prevention tips.

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease usually refers to two conditions:

  • Ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis, as the name suggests, is a condition that causes sores or ulcers. These ulcers are usually found on the lining of the large intestine, as well as the rectum.
  • Crohn’s disease. This is an inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. In contrast with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract. This means it can cause inflammation anywhere from the mouth, to the rectum.

Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are long-term conditions that currently do not have any cure. However, patients with these conditions are usually able to manage their conditions by making lifestyle changes, as well as by taking medication to help ease the symptoms.

When it comes to what can cause ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, scientists believe that a “malfunction” in the immune response might be responsible. It’s possible that a person with IBD had a serious infection that triggered their condition even after they have recovered.

Difference Between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of IBD can vary from person to person. However, there are certain symptoms that are fairly common in patients with IBD:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Blood in the stool

Patients with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can experience any of the symptoms above. However, if their condition is not managed well, then more serious symptoms can appear, such as the following:

  • Anemia
  • Bleeding
  • Malnutrition

How is an IBD diagnosis done?

When it comes to an IBD diagnosis, doctors usually employ different tests and methods, such as the following:


Imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT scan, or an MRI may be conducted in order to see if there are any problems in the gastrointestinal tract. These let doctors take a closer look at your GI tract to see if there’s any inflammation or signs that might indicate you have IBD.

Lab tests

Lab tests may also be conducted to check if you have IBD. These typically include a blood test, stool sample, and tests to check for infection. The results of these lab tests give doctors a clue about your current condition and what might be causing your symptoms.


Doctors can also conduct an endoscopy or a procedure that uses a camera to look inside your GI tract. You are going to be lightly sedated during the procedure, while your doctor puts a tube with a camera in your mouth and through the GI tract. This lets your doctor see if there are any ulcers, inflammation, or problems that point towards IBD.

What complications can arise from IBD?

If left untreated, IBD can lead to serious complications such as the following:

  • IBD can increase your risk of colon cancer
  • Inflammation of the joints
  • Eye problems
  • Lesions can appear on your skin
  • Blood clots
  • Liver damage can also be a possibility
  • Fistula formation
  • Peritonitis
  • Abscess
  • In children, it may cause problems with growth and nutrition
  • It can cause skin disorders such as erythema nodosuum, pyoderma gangrenosum, psoriasis

If you have been diagnosed with IBD, it is important to follow your doctor’s advice regarding your condition. They should be able to provide you with the information you need when it comes to keeping your IBD under control.

This helps lower the risk of complications, and also helps lessen the impact of IBD symptoms.

What are the risk factors?

Here are some possible risk factors for IBD:


Increased risk for Crohn disease but not for ulcerative colitis.

Decreased physical activity


High intake of dietary fiber has been associated with decrease in risk for Crohn disease (CD) compared to ulcerative colitis (UC).


Increased dietary intake of fat correlated with increase risk for both Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis.

Sleep duration

Sleep deprivation has been associated with increased risk of UC and flares in IBD patients. Women with reported sleep duration of less than 6 or more than 9 hours per day had a higher risk of ulcerative colitis compared with women with reported sleep durations of seven to eight hours per day (odds ratio [OR] 1.5, 95% CI 1.1-2.1, and OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.4-2.9, respectively). In contrast, sleep duration did not modify the risk of Crohn disease.

How can it be prevented?

Since scientists are not sure of what exactly causes IBD, there is no known way to prevent it from happening.

But if you do get diagnosed with IBD, the best thing you can do would be to keep your symptoms under control. This is why it is important to get checked as soon as possible if you believe that you might have IBD.

The sooner you can get a diagnosis, the sooner you can manage your condition, and it would help reduce the risk of serious complications.

Learn more about Digestive Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


IBS or IBD Symptoms: What is the Difference? | Cedars-Sinai, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/is-it-ibs-or-ibd.html, Accessed December 17, 2020

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353315, Accessed December 17, 2020

Inflammatory bowel disease – NHS – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/, Accessed December 17, 2020

Inflammatory bowel disease | womenshealth.gov, https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/inflammatory-bowel-disease, Accessed December 17, 2020

Inflammatory Bowel Disease – American College of Gastroenterology, https://gi.org/topics/inflammatory-bowel-disease/, Accessed December 17, 2020

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353320, Accessed December 17, 2020

CDC -What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? – Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Division of Population Health, https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/what-is-IBD.htm#:~:text=Inflammatory%20bowel%20disease%20(IBD)%20is,damage%20to%20the%20GI%20tract., Accessed December 17, 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated May 31
Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, M.D.