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What is the Difference Between IBS and IBD?

If you experience digestive distress occasionally, you’re not alone. This happens to most people at times. But if this happens a lot, you may have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These two digestive conditions are often mistaken for one another or referred to interchangeably, but they’re actually two completely different conditions. 

Kimberley Shine, MD, of Shine Health and Wellness is here to clear the air about IBD and IBS, because the first step to proper treatment is knowing which one you may have.

What is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that involve inflammation of the digestive tract. Inflammatory bowel disease encompasses two distinct medical conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both of these conditions occur when your digestive tract becomes inflamed and irritated, but the inflammation appears in different parts of the digestive tract. 

Crohn’s disease occurs when the lining of your digestive tract becomes inflamed, which can lead to inflammation of deep body tissues. Crohn’s disease can be extremely painful to the point of debilitation, and it can affect different regions of the intestines in different people. 

Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, only affects the colon (large intestine). People with ulcerative colitis typically develop ulcers in their colon. Like Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis can also cause severe pain.

What is IBS? 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a symptomatic condition, or a syndrome, that involves abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of any of those symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome is often referred to as a “functional disorder,” and it often requires lifelong symptom management

Irritable bowel syndrome may coexist with psychological disorders, such as anxiety, insomnia, or depression, but a causal relationship hasn’t been established.

IBD vs. IBS: the major differences

Perhaps the biggest difference between IBD and IBS is that IBD is classified as a medical condition, while IBS is not. Part of the reason for this is that IBS symptoms often aren’t detectable through imaging tests like IBD symptoms are. Also, many practitioners disagree about the symptomatic criteria of IBS, which makes it difficult to establish a diagnostic criteria. 

Unlike IBD, IBS isn’t known to cause permanent damage to the digestive tract. However, that doesn’t mean IBS isn’t a bona fide condition. People who struggle with IBS deal with real pain and real symptoms. 

Because the conditions are different, so are the treatments. If you have either condition, treatment can vary depending on the severity. Dr. Shine may discuss your family, personal, and medical history. She may also order testing. Depending on your case, treatment may involve medication or even surgery. No matter what you’re going through, Dr. Shine will work to get to the root of your problem and put you on the path to health. 

If you think you may be struggling with IBS or IBD, Dr. Shine can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Shine Health and Wellness today.

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