Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Frequently Asked Questions

Appointment New Patient Appointment or 214-645-8300

Get more information about IBD below.

General Questions

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are chronic autoimmune diseases of the bowels. These two diseases represent most inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Is IBS the same as IBD?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a broad category that includes symptoms of cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. It is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Unlike IBD, IBS symptoms are not from inflammation of the bowel and do not include blood in the stool or weight loss. IBS generally does not result in disturbed sleep, while IBD symptoms often do. Treatment for IBS is very different from treating IBD.

Are they caused by an infection, or by something I eat or drink?
No. The diseases are not caused by infection or diet. The body creates inflammation or irritation (ulcers) in the bowels because the immune system is overactive. However, you might find that certain foods make your symptoms worse.

How do you differentiate Crohn’s disease from ulcerative colitis?
While there is no one test that will definitively indicate which disease you have, these two diseases have different characteristics that can be evaluated by imaging tests, scans, endoscopy, and blood work.

Are Crohn’s disease and UC hereditary?
There is a genetic predisposition to the diseases.

Can Crohn’s disease or UC be cured?
Crohn’s disease cannot be cured, but it can be controlled with the right combination of medications. UC usually can be cured with surgery. These are chronic diseases, and symptoms range from mild to severe. You will have periodic flare-ups, but you can be symptom-free for months or years. The goal of treatment is remission, a state where inflammation is completely healed and patients have a normal quality of life with no symptoms from inflammation.

Can Crohn’s disease or UC progress into cancer?
Patients who have these diseases do have a higher risk of developing colon cancer  and small bowel cancer. This is dependent partly on how long you have the disease and on how much inflammation you have. Your physician might recommend periodic colonoscopies for a full evaluation of the colon. Individuals with a family history of colon cancer are also at higher risk.

Living with the Diseases

Will I need to have surgery or can I simply take medications instead?
Medications are usually the first line of treatment. If medical management is unsuccessful, surgery is an effective option to cure UC. Surgery might be needed to treat Crohn’s complications, such as strictures (narrowing of the passageway), abscesses (a collection of pus), or fistulae (abnormal passages).

Are the medicines used to treat Crohn’s disease or UC expensive?
Some medications can be expensive, but many pharmaceutical companies offer financial assistance programs that help reduce the out-of-pocket expenses.

Do I have to observe special precautions while on medications for Crohn’s disease or UC?
Patients taking specific classes of medications can be more prone to infections. Patients on these medications should take standard precautions such as hand washing, especially if they have contact with people who are sick with a cold, the flu, or other contagious diseases. We also recommend paying attention to current vaccination recommendations, such as flu and pneumonia vaccines. 

Should I be taking food supplements or over-the-counter vitamins?
These products are generally not thought to lessen or prevent disease, but supplements might be recommended if lab work indicates a deficiency.

Will I need to have frequent lab work?
Several tests are needed initially to help determine the correct treatment for the specific disease. These initial tests are done to make sure patients have no active infections. They also evaluate how patients might respond to certain treatments. Certain medications require periodic testing of kidney and liver function.

When should I call my physician about a change in my symptoms?
You should contact your physician if the pain level increases, diarrhea worsens, or you notice more blood in your stool. Medication changes might be needed or, if symptoms are severe, you may need to be hospitalized.


Can I still get pregnant and have children?
Yes, but pregnancy is best avoided during active periods of the disease. If possible, plan to have children during times of remission. Women who do become pregnant should be seen regularly by a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. This specialist will work closely with your IBD specialist to manage your condition. A small number of medications used to treat IBD can be harmful to a fetus, but most are safe.

If I am pregnant, which medicines are dangerous to the fetus?
Methotrexate should not be taken if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Other medicines to avoid include cyclosporine and Lomotil. Biologic agents are safe to use in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Medications such as 6-MP and Azathioprine appear to be safe for use during pregnancy.