Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe conditions that cause severe tummy pain and diarrhoea. IBD is long-term, but there are treatments that can help with the symptoms.
IBD is different to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), even though some of the symptoms may be similar.
Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
The main symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can include:
- diarrhoea that lasts longer than 4 weeks
- tummy pain
- blood or mucus (clear slime) in your poo
- bleeding from your bottom
- feeling tired all the time
- losing weight without trying
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- you have diarrhoea that lasts more than 7 days
- you have tummy pain or bloating that will not go away or keeps coming back
- you have blood or mucus (clear slime) in your poo
- you've been losing a lot of weight without trying
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:
- you have severe tummy pain
- you're bleeding non-stop from your bottom
- there's a lot of blood, for example, the toilet water turns red or you see large blood clots
- you're vomiting blood or poo, or your sick looks like coffee grounds or soil
Treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) will depend on your symptoms. If you're very unwell, you may need to be treated in hospital.
Treatments may include:
- medicines to help ease your symptoms, such as steroids, and other medicines that can help keep your symptoms under control
- surgery to remove part of your bowel, if your symptoms are severe
Causes of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
It's not clear what causes inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It happens when your immune system attacks your bowel, which causes it to get inflamed.
You're more likely to get IBD if one of your close relatives has it, for example, one of your parents, grandparents, or a sibling.
Help and support
- Crohn's and Colitis UK - a charity that provides help and support for people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- IBD Registry - UK registry for IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, IBD unclassified and other forms of IBD
Page last reviewed: 5 May 2023
Next review due: 5 May 2026