Dr Zaher Koutobu, staff physician, gastroenterology, Digestive Disease Institute, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The prevalence of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is rising all over the world, including in the Middle East. Despite its common occurrence, many people shy away from addressing this digestive health condition because they are embarrassed to speak to their doctor or think it may go away on its own.

It is important to note, however, that IBD, which involves chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, can result in complications ranging from malnourishment to life-threatening conditions, and should be addressed right away. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common types of IBD and are so similar that they often are mistaken for each other.

Awareness remains low about the disease and how various types of IBD require different approaches for proper disease management.

Causes of IBD: The exact cause is unknown, but latest research suggests that it may be caused by a malfunction in the body’s immune system. In addition, family history and some environmental factors, like smoking, are associated with an increased risk of developing the disease. Crohn’s disease can develop anywhere in the digestive tract and affect deep layers of the lining, while ulcerative colitis usually affects only the large intestine.

Symptoms: Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis lead to swelling and sores along the tissue that lines the digestive tract and can cause abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss and frequent diarrhoea.

Treatment: In the early stages of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, medication is recommended to help with inflammation and to allow the intestinal tissues to heal. Once diarrhoea and abdominal pain are under control, medication can reduce the frequency of flare-ups and help maintain remission. It is also important to adopt a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

If you are experiencing uncomfortable digestive symptoms for a prolonged period of time, please see your doctor. Your doctor should review your medical history, perform a physical examination and further medical tests as necessary, determine a proper diagnosis, and provide a tailored treatment plan. It’s important to determine an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment early to avoid developing serious complications and improve quality of life.

-The writer is staff physician, gastroenterology, Digestive Disease Institute, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi