Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an ongoing or chronic health problem that causes inflammation and swelling in the digestive tract. The irritation causes bleeding sores called ulcers to form along the digestive tract. This in turn can cause crampy, abdominal pain and severe bloody diarrhea.
There are two main types of inflammatory bowel disease: ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD). The diseases are very similar. In fact, doctors often have a hard time figuring out which type of IBD a person has. The main difference between UC and CD is the area of the digestive tract they affect. CD can occur along the entire digestive tract and spread deep into the bowel wall. In contrast, UC usually only affects the top layer of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Medicine can control the symptoms of IBD in most women. But for people who have severe IBD, surgery is sometimes needed. Over the course of a person's life, the symptoms of IBD often come and go. With close monitoring and medicines, most people with IBD lead full and active lives.