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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Helping you overcome painful conditions

Lee Health offers a fresh approach to managing inflammatory bowel disease – a group of medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis that cause long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, leading to diarrhea, pain, weight loss, and other bothersome symptoms.

In addition to new treatments that are rooted in the latest research, our team believes in each patient’s unique medical history and concerns.

We help you manage your condition by reducing your risk of complications and allowing your digestive tract to heal.

And our treatments help you reach a point where you feel good and enjoy a higher quality of life – one that is not interrupted by digestive trouble.

Whether you are interested in participating in an IBD clinical trial, or want to explore complementary and alternative therapies such as nutritional supplements or dietary changes, we’ll help you meet your personal goals while making sure you’re receiving the best care available.

Inflammatory bowel disease conditions treated at Lee Health

Lee Health gastroenterologists have extensive experience diagnosing and treating medical problems that affect the gallbladder and bile ducts, including:

Crohn's disease causes damaging inflammation to the lining of the digestive tract. This inflammation can occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus, although it commonly affects the small intestine or colon. Sometimes the inflammation occurs in patches, meaning inflamed sections appear in between normal, healthy sections.

Ulcerative colitis causes chronic inflammation and sores, but unlike Crohn’s disease it occurs only in the colon or rectum. The inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis is usually continuous, meaning there are no patches of healthy tissue within the affected area.

Without proper management, IBD poses the risk of serious complications, including:

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Malnutrition
  • Fistulas or open sores that are so deep they tunnel through the intestinal wall. A fistula can become infected and form an abscess, which may be life-threatening if not treated.
  • Strictures, which occur when portions of the intestine become narrow and reduce or block the passage of food
  • A perforated colon

People with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis also have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

IBD treatment at Lee Health

Medication therapy is often the first line of defense and may be used alone or in combination with surgery.

Drug therapy options

  • Drugs that reduce inflammation, including steroids.
  • Drugs that target the immune system, ranging from commonly used immunosuppressants (such as azathioprine), to biologics reserved for people who don’t respond well to other medications.
  • Antibiotics to help reduce the risk of infections and suppress intestinal bacterial growth.
  • Drugs that relieve specific symptoms often caused by IBD, including diarrhea, pain and low levels of vitamin B-12, iron and other vitamins and minerals.

Surgery is often reserved for patients with moderate to severe IBD who don’t respond well to drug therapy, or who have developed complications that require surgical treatment.

Surgical options

  • Proctocolectomy or surgery to remove the colon and rectum, for people with ulcerative colitis.

Patients who require a proctocolectomy often undergo a second procedure called ileoanal anastomosis surgery, also known as J-pouch surgery, so they can pass stool normally without the need for a collection bag.

Some patients, however, are not eligible for J-pouch surgery. Instead, their surgeon will likely create a permanent opening in their abdomen, called a stoma, which allows feces to pass into a bag worn on the outside of the body.

  • Surgery to remove a diseased portion of the colon or rectum and then reattach the healthy sections. This procedure is typically used to treat patients with Crohn’s disease, who have healthy patches of tissue in between the inflamed portions of their digestive tract.
  • Strictureplasty or stricture dilations. These procedures help widen portions of the intestine that have become narrowed due to the inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease.
  • Surgery to close fistulas.
  • Surgery to drain infected abscesses.
  • Comprehensive, long-term IBD management

Services to help manage your conditions

Lee Health gastroenterologists also offer many other services designed to help patients manage their conditions, including their risk of complications. These include:

  • Chromoendoscopy for ongoing colorectal cancer screening. This endoscopy procedure is often used among high-risk patients because it utilizes a special dye that helps pre-cancerous lesions show up better.
  • Pouch surveillance for people with J-pouches or Kock pouches (also known as K-pouches).
  • Coordinating referrals to other Lee Health specialists, including physicians at Lee Health Center for Integrative Medicine who provide complementary and alternative therapies for people with IBD.
  • Managing patients who develop short bowel syndrome (also known as short gut syndrome) after part of their small intestine has been removed.

To make an appointment with a Lee Health Gastroenterologist, call 239-343-6202.

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