What is inflammatory bowel disease? Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) occurs when inflammation in the small intestine and colon produces redness, bleeding and pus, which, in turn, cause such symptoms as diarrhea. Inflammation impairs the colon’s ability to hold its contents, resulting in frequent elimination. IBD includes two distinct conditions, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Although both conditions involve inflammation and produce somewhat similar symptoms, in Crohn’s disease, the inflammation can extend to other organs in the digestive tract, including the stomach and esophagus, while ulcerative colitis specifically affects the colon (large intestine). IBD can affect one side of your colon or your entire colon. Left-side colon involvement is called limited, or distal, colitis. Ulcerative proctitis describes inflammation occurring in the lower part of the colon and rectum. Ulcerative colitis is confined to the superficial mucosal layer that lines the large intestine. Crohn’s disease affects the full thickness of intestine, resulting in significant scarring and fistula formation. Both forms of IBD affect young adults, with disease onset usually occurring between ages 15 and 30 years, and less commonly between 50 and 70 years of age for ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease is diagnosed most commonly in people from most commonly 20 to 30 years of age. IBD can run in families, with at least 20% of people affected having a family member with the condition. The prevalence of ulcerative colitis is higher in Caucasians and people with Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry (Source: NDDIC). Inflammatory bowel disease itself is not an emergency situation, but prolonged diarrhea, a common symptom, can result in serious dehydration or complications. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, inability to pass gas or stool, and vomiting or vomiting blood. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for inflammatory bowel disease, but mild symptoms recur or persist.