2021-12-07T08:27:38-06:00December 21st, 2021|

What’s the difference between Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Both Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome can cause symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhea and fatigue.

However, the two conditions are actually very different, and it’s important to see a specialist for an accurate diagnosis and optimal treatment plan.

Dr. Leonard Baidoo, a world-renowned leader in the treatment of IBD, helps patients manage their condition and reclaim quality of life by taking a comprehensive approach to care.

Abdominal pain, diarrhea and general malaise are all unpleasant and worrisome symptoms associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). However, these two conditions are not the same, and it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis in order to get effective treatment.

Leonard Baidoo, MD is a gastroenterologist at Regional One Health and world-renowned leader in the treatment of IBD. He encourages patients to talk to their health care provider about their symptoms so they can learn the cause of the problem and get the help they need.

“Inflammatory Bowel Disease is often confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” he said. “It can be difficult to make the distinction, but it’s a distinction worth noting. The conditions have different causes, which means we treat them differently.”

Dr. Baidoo said IBD is a structural disease, which means symptoms are caused by physical damage to the bowel such as chronic inflammation or ulcers. IBS is a functional disease, which means it is not caused by physical damage. It can be linked to issues like colon sensitivity, stress, anxiety and depression.

Dr. Leonard Baidoo is a gastroenterologist at Regional One Health. “Inflammatory Bowel Disease is often confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” he said. “It can be difficult to make the distinction, but it’s a distinction worth noting. The conditions have different causes, which means we treat them differently.”

While the symptoms are similar, there are crucial differences to watch for, Dr. Baidoo said.

IBS patients can experience predominantly diarrhea or constipation or diarrhea alternating with constipation, but they will not have blood in their stool, he said. They may feel bloated or gassy along with their other symptoms, and their pain typically feels like cramping in the lower abdomen.

Patients with IBD will likely notice blood in their stool. Dr. Baidoo said to watch for blood mixed into the stool or a stool that looks black. “See a doctor right away if this occurs,” he said. “Blood in your stool is never normal.”

IBD patients can also experience fever or inflammation in their joints or eyes and also develop skin rashes.

Dr. Baidoo said there are two main types of IBD – ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – and although they share some common symptoms there are significant differences.

Ulcerative colitis causes painful cramping, typically in the lower left abdomen. Patients will have bloody diarrhea with a feeling of urgency. They often have a poor appetite and may lose some weight.

With Crohn’s, the pain is constant rather than cramping and is typically centralized in the lower right abdomen. Patients will have diarrhea, which may or may not be bloody. The pain is usually more profound, so there can be a significant weight loss.

Physicians use lab work, colonoscopy and imaging including CT, MRI and ultrasound to reach a diagnosis. From there, treatment options vary based on the diagnosis and severity of the illness.

Both IBD and IBS cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and fatigue, but IBD patients are likely to also have blood in their stool. Dr. Baidoo uses lab work, imaging and colonoscopy to reach an accurate diagnosis.

There are medications approved specifically for IBS, and some patients benefit from anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants, medications designed to treat their symptoms, dietary modifications and therapy which help to identify and challenge any negative thinking patterns and behaviors which may be causing difficulties.

For IBD patients, treatment is similar for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Dr. Baidoo said there are a number of medications available, and he always looks to find the mildest effective medicine because side effects tend to increase with the more potent drug options.

Some IBD patients can also benefit from surgery if medications do not work or they develop a complication, like scarring from ulcers or a stricture in the bowel. “Typically, these surgeries are done laparoscopically, which means smaller incisions and an easier recovery,” Dr. Baidoo said.

Dr. Baidoo said it’s important for patients to get proper treatment for the symptoms of IBD and IBS. “These conditions typically happen when patients are younger, and they can have a major impact on their quality of life if not treated appropriately and in a timely manner,” he said. “We help patients manage their condition, so their symptoms don’t cause them to miss out on the things they want to do. A disease should not control your life.”

For an appointment with Dr. Baidoo, call 901-545-6969.

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