IBD Facts and Figures

IBD stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease; IBS stands for Irritable bowel syndrome. Both conditions can produce similar symptoms but in the case of IBS there is no clear evidence of inflammation present. They are two very different disorders with IBD requiring specialist follow up.

There is no official database which gives accurate figures but it is thought that at least 40,000 people are living with IBD in Ireland. There were 5.9 new cases of Crohn's disease in Ireland per 100,000 population in 2011 and 14.9 new cases of ulcerative colitis (although the incidence of Crohn's disease is higher than ulcerative colitis in children). Males and females are affected equally. Patients can be diagnosed at any age with the peak age of incidence being between the ages of 15 and 35, with a second (smaller) peak from the 50s to 70s. IBD diagnosed in children can behave differently and can be treated differently to that diagnosed in adults.

Crohn's disease can sometimes affect the colon in which case the disease is referred to as Crohn’s colitis. There are some pathological differences between the two diseases therefore this term is used to distinguish ulcerative colitis from Crohn's disease where the colon is affected.

In some cases where the colon is affected, it is not clear whether the disease is Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. In such cases the disease is described as "indeterminate colitis" or IBDu - Inflammatory Bowel Disease unclassified.

This is another form of IBD, and as it affects the colon it falls under the heading of colitis. It is a less well-known form of colitis than ulcerative colitis and was not first described until 1976. Microscopic colitis is where the lining of the colon appears normal (unlike ulcerative colitis where inflammation is observed). It can be further broken down into collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis. The main symptom of both is watery diarrhoea which leads it to also have the name 'watery diarrhoea syndrome'. Weight loss is uncommon. The majority of diagnoses occur in middled-aged females. It is an idiopathic (of no known cause) disease and it usually responds well to treatment.

Microscopic colitis derives its name because it must be diagnosed under microscope. This is a challenging condition for doctors to diagnose. Although the symptoms may lead a doctor to request a colonoscopy for the patient, no visible inflammation is seen (unlike ulcerative colitis) and a biopsy must be taken to reach a diagnosis. Even if the doctor suspects microscopic colitis, diagnosis is not straightforward. Biopsies must be taken from an affected part of the bowel, yet it is not possible with the naked eye to see which part is affected and which is healthy. Therefore biopsies must be taken from the entire colon. Biopsies may otherwise be taken from healthy bowel which will not show anything unusual when analysed.

The ISCC welcomes members with microscopic colitis and can provide you with information leaflets and support in terms of living with this condition.

Genetic screening is not available for IBD at present, however you should mention to your doctor if there is any member of your family with a diagnosis of IBD.