Inflammatory bowel disease

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Inflammatory bowel disease is the general term given to Crohn's disease (first described 1932[1]) and ulcerative colitis (first described in 1875[2]). In some cases despite many tests it can be hard to differentiate the two and the general term IBD may be given. Other non infective toxic and radiation induced bowel inflammation may be considered by some under this vague term. Not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome which is quite a different condition. Management involves referral to a Gastroenterologist.


The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease is strongly associated with socioeconomic development[3].

By the early 21st century prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease in many Western nations was more than 0·3% but since 1990 the rate appears to be declining perhaps because of less tobacco smoking.

See articles on Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis for their slightly different aetiologies (as we presently understand).


  1. Crohn, BB, Ginzburg, L, and Oppenheimer, GD. Regional ileitis: a pathologic and clinical entity. JAMA. 1932; 99: 1323–1329
  2. Wilks, S and Moxon, W. Lectures on pathological anatomy. 2nd edn. J&A Churchill, London; 1875
  3. Ng SC, Shi HY, Hamidi N et al. Worldwide incidence and prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease in the 21st century: a systematic review of population-based studies Lancet 2017DOI:
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