About IBD

About IBD

When your doctor talks about inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, they are usually referring to chronic (long-term or life-long) conditions such as Crohn’s disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC).[1] IBD is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a non-inflammatory condition.[1][2]

Although the exact cause of IBD remains largely unknown, advances in research have improved our understanding of the disease. It is now believed that IBD is caused by a combination of factors including the genes you are born with, an abnormal reaction of the immune system to certain bacteria in your gut, along with an unknown trigger which may be associated with diet or stress.[3][4]

Watch the video ‘Understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)’ to discover more about IBD and the impact it can have on people living with CD and UC, along with a brief look inside the immune system and its relationship with IBD.

IBD is estimated to possibly affect around 3.7 million people across Europe[5].


If you have recently been diagnosed with IBD, the ‘My IBD Journey: Life after diagnosis’ (see below) animation provides practical advice and positive steps recommended by people living with IBD.

This video has been produced by Janssen, in collaboration with the European Federation of Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis Associations (EFCCA). For more information about EFCCA, please visit http://www.efcca.org/

Symptoms of IBD

Symptoms can vary depending on the type of IBD, however, some are common across CD and UC:[6]


Some other symptoms include:


These symptoms can come and go, sometimes without warning, and can be caused by triggers such as certain foods or stressful situations, which will be different for each person living with IBD. When the inflammation worsens, and you experience more symptoms of your disease, it is called a ‘flare-up’. The quiet or symptomless period of time between flare-ups is called ‘remission’.[6]

It is not fully understood why some people develop IBD, but genetics play a role and you are more likely to have it if you have a close relative who has or had IBD. Smokers are more likely to be affected by CD and smoking can aggravate the symptoms, so is worth considering quitting if you do smoke.[7][8] As vaping is a new trend, it isn’t yet known if there is a link between vaping and IBD.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is IBD? Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ibd/what-is-ibd.htm.
The IBS Network. What is IBD? Available at: https://www.theibsnetwork.org/have-i-got-ibs/what-is-ibs/.
Irish Society for Crohns and Colitis (ISCC) How IBD can affect you. Available at: https://iscc.ie/facts/ibd-symptoms/
Crohn’s & Colitis UK. Ulcerative Crohn’s. Available at: https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/about-inflammatory-bowel-disease/ulcerative-colitis.
Zhao J Crohns Colitis 2021 Sep 25;15(9):1573-1587
Crohn’s & Colitis UK. About Inflammatory Bowel Disease - What are the Symptoms. Available at: https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/about-inflammatory-bowel-disease/what-are-the-symptoms.
Crohn’s & Colitis UK. Crohn’s Disease. Available at: https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/about-inflammatory-bowel-disease/crohns-disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology of the IBD. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/IBD-epidemiology.htm.
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