The Difference Between Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) explainedIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may have sound-alike names, but they are two distinct conditions. Read on to learn about their similarities and key differences.
"I" as in inflammation
The term “inflammatory bowel disease” (IBD) refers to gastrointestinal diseases characterized by inflammation. The most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
IBD causes damage to the intestines that is visible upon examination – during an X-ray or endoscopy for example. The damage is caused by an inflammatory process whose causes are not fully understood. When the intestines are damaged, they are less effective at absorbing essential nutrients.
People with IBD may experience diarrhea and other digestive problems, as well as anemia or fever (as a result of infection).
The inflammation that occurs with IBD can appear in other organs of the body and can manifest in the joints, skin and eyes. Complications can lead to kidney stones, gallstones, and weaker bones. Patients are also at higher risk of developing blood clots.
"I" as in irritation
The digestive tract of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) appears to be hypersensitive, reacting more intensely to normal gut activity like the passage of solids or gas through the intestine. It is a functional disorder, which means it interferes with the proper functioning of the intestines, leading to a range of symptoms that vary in severity from one person to another.
Contrary to IBD, IBS does not damage the intestines nor does it affect other organs.
People with IBS may experience symptoms that can cause significant discomfort as well as emotional suffering or stress. However, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is less severe than inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which can lead to disability. The table below summarizes the main differences between the two disorders:
|Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)||Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)|
|How many Canadians are affected?||4 to 7 million||About 230,000|
|Who is affected?||Affects twice as many women as men||Affects women and men alike|
|At what age does it typically appear?||May appear at any age, even in childhood||May appear at any age, but most often in early adulthood|
|How does it progress?||May resolve unexpectedly, and recur at any age||Is a progressive disease|
|Does it damage the intestines?||No||Yes|
|Does it affect other organs?||No||Yes. The skin, joints, eyes, liver and kidneys may be affected|
|What are the typical symptoms?||
|How is it treated?||
If you have symptoms suggestive of one of these conditions, see your doctor. Obtaining a proper diagnosis is important because IBS and IBD require different treatment strategies.
Although IBS and IBD cannot be cured, it is possible to live well with them. In both cases, your pharmacist, in collaboration with your medical team, will be there to ensure you get the best possible care and treatment, and help you make appropriate changes to your diet and lifestyle, so you can enjoy a good quality of life.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.