10 Terms to Help Understand IBD

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional
Medically Reviewed
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Have you or someone you love recently been diagnosed with a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? Though they sound similar, it’s important to know that IBD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are totally different. Read on to learn more about the types of IBD and what different terms related to these conditions mean.


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What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of conditions that cause chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The two most common are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (UC), according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCF).


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What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the GI tract, according to the CCF. It commonly affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon, but in can affect any area along the GI tract (from mouth to anus). It can also affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall.


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What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory condition that occurs mainly in the large intestine and rectum, according to the CCF. It generally affects the innermost lining of these tissues.


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What is stenosis?

In IBD, stenosis refers to the scarring of the bowel wall as a result of the chronic inflammation.


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What is a fistula?

A fistula may occur when the inflammation of IBD spreads through the bowel wall and causes abnormal connections or passageways.


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What is occult blood?

Occult or “invisible” blood in the stool cannot be seen by the naked eye. It is typically detected using a fecal occult blood test (FOBT).


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What is tenesmus?

According to the National Instiutes for Health (NIH), tenesmus is the inability to move the bowels in spite of needing to do so.  This can happen when IBD affects the colon and rectum.


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What is bowel obstruction?

Occurs when part of the bowel narrows or thickens and blocks the movement of digestive contents through the intestines.


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What are ulcers?

Ulcers are open sores that can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, according to the NIH. The main symptom of a stomach ulcer is burning pain.


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What is an anal fissure?

Anal fissures are a potential complication of IBD that happens when a crack in the anal tissue or tissue around the anus forms. Infection is known to occur as a result.