Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, are common, chronic inflammatory conditions that primarily affect young people in adolescence and early adulthood. The same applies for IBS, although both conditions may persist, or begin, at later stages. Both IBD and IBS have increased in prevalence across Europe in recent decades.

View further information and gain expert opinion on IBD and IBS below. All information is taken from the UEG Survey of Digestive Health Across Europe, unless otherwise stated. 

The Impact of IBD on Young People
IBD Map
Paediatric IBD Across Europe
  • The two most common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
  • Adolescence or early adulthood are peak ages for the onset of IBD, though it may occur at any age
  • Ulcerative colitis is often equally distributed among men and women, whereas Crohn's disease is more common in women
  • A sharp rise in the incidence of IBD has been observed in many western countries since the early 1950s, making IBD one of the most common of all chronic inflammatory conditions
  • The combined prevalence of IBD has been reported to reach up to 396 per 100,000 people
  • Most patients will be treated with anti-inflammatory medication (e.g. 5-ASA, steroids) or immunosuppressives (e.g. azathioprine)
  • Antibiotics or biological therapies (e.g. anti-tnf alfa) may be used
  • If the illness does not respond to medication, surgery may be necessary
  • In ulcerative colitis patients, the entire colon may be removed, in which case the illness is “cured”; in Crohn’s disease, only the affected parts of the intestine are removed

    Data in this section has been taken from European Federation of Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis Associations (EFCCA) 
  • Although considered autoimmune diseases, the causes of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are not known, although there is a strong genetic, as well as an environmental component
  • Suggested environmental factors have included appendectomy, perinatal and childhood infections, oral contraceptives and measles infection 
  • Smoking has been shown to be positively associated with the onset of Crohn's disease
  • Instances of IBS usually occur for the first time among people during their late teenage years or during early adulthood, up to the age of about 30 years
  • Symptoms can flare up for between a few days and a few months at a time, depending on the individual
  • Although the majority of cases are undiagnosed, reported IBS is often about three times more common in women than in men
  • IBS prevalence across Europe has been reported as ranging from 4.2% in the Netherlands, to 9.7% in France, with prevalence in Germany, the UK, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Switzerland ranging from 5.3% to 7.2%
  • Although IBS is not curable, symptoms are treated variously with medications, probiotics, changes in diet and nutrition, and mental health therapies
  • Bloating and swelling of the stomach
  • Flatulence
  • Occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet 
  • Symptoms can vary and sometimes seem contradictory, such as alternating diarrhea and constipation
  • Symptoms most probably result from a disturbance in the interaction between the gut or intestines, the brain, and the autonomic nervous system that alters regulation of bowel motility or sensory function
  • Psychological factors
  • Alcohol
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Fatty or fried food
  • Highly caffeinated drinks
  • Processed snacks

Speak to one of our experts to learn more about inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Please email media@ueg.eu for further information (full contact details can be found at the bottom of the page).

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