Medical Overview and Epidemiology

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that is of unknown etiology, with two relatively distinct subtypes. Crohn's disease, also known as regional enteritis, is distinguished by segmental involvement of the gut in a nonspecific granulomatous inflammatory process that affects all layers of the gut wall and that may affect any portion of the gut, from mouth to anus. Ulcerative colitis is notable for primarily mucosal and submucosal inflammation of the rectum and sometimes the colon, but not the small intestine. Approximately 25% of IBD presents in childhood and adolescence, typically with some combination of abdominal pain, weight loss, and diarrhea, as well as blood in the stool. IBD typically has a relapsing and remitting course, and although the cause remains unknown, immune dys-regulation appears to be important to the disease process (Beattie et al. 2006).

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