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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Health Center

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Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The cause of the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease, is not known. Studies suggest they are caused by a combination of things, including genes, environmental factors, and problems with the immune system.

There is strong evidence to suggest a genetic basis for IBD, including:

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Microscopic Colitis

Microscopic colitis is a type of inflammation of the colon, or large intestine, that can cause watery diarrhea and cramping. While it can be painful and unpleasant, it's much less severe than other types of inflammatory bowel disease. It's called microscopic because the inflammation is too small to see with the naked eye. The only way your doctor can diagnose it is to take a sample of tissue and check it under a microscope. There are two types of microscopic colitis: Collagenous colitis ...

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  • Family history: As many as 20% of people with IBD have a family history of it.
  • Race and ethnicity: IBD is more common in white people. It's also more common in Jews, especially Ashkenazi Jews.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Genes

In 2006, the first gene associated with Crohn's disease, the NOD2 gene, was identified. Since then, researchers have uncovered over 200 related genomic regions for IBD.

Finding a genetic link would help scientists understand the changes that lead to IBD, and help them improve treatments. A genetic link could also lead to a test for IBD.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 04, 2013

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