Science

Who gets affected by IBD?

IBD may affect as many as 5 million people worldwide. Men and Women are equally likely to be affected, and while the disease can occur at any age, IBD occurs more often among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.

Although considerable progress has been made in IBD research, investigators do not yet know what causes this disease. Studies indicate that the inflammation in IBD involves a complex interaction of factors: the genes the person has inherited, the immune system, and something in the environment. Foreign substances (antigens) in the environment may be the direct cause of the inflammation, or they may stimulate the body's defenses to produce an inflammation that continues without control. Researchers believe that once the IBD patient's immune system is "turned on," it does not know how to properly "turn off" at the right time. As a result, inflammation damages the intestine and causes the symptoms of IBD. That is why the main goal of medical therapy is to help patients regulate their immune system better.

Crohn’s disease tends to run in families, so if you or a close relative have the disease, your family members have a significantly increased chance of developing Crohn’s. Studies have shown that 5% to 20% of affected individuals have a first – degree relative (parents, child, or sibling) with one of the diseases. The risk is greater with Crohn’s disease than ulcerative colitis. The risk is also substantially higher when both parents have IBD.

The environment in which you live also appears to play a role. IBD is more common in developed countries rather than undeveloped countries, in urban rather than rural areas, and in northern rather than southern climates.