Why Early Diagnosis and Treatment for IBD Is Important

Discover the latest research in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), showing early treatment can help slow down the disease progression and prevent complications.

sporty woman touching her back Photo: iStock

Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world. One in every 150 Canadians is living with IBD, with most being diagnosed before age 30. The number of new cases of IBD in Canadian children has almost doubled since 1995.

The symptoms can be debilitating.

The main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. They cause the immune system to attack all or part of the digestive tract, resulting in inflammation and sores. The body has difficulty digesting food, absorbing nutrition, and eliminating waste. IBD symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, fatigue, and loss of appetite.  The disease can also cause joint pain, skin conditions, and eye inflammation.

Chronic inflammation must be targeted.

Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial because Crohn’s disease is progressive. If the inflammation persists, the disease can lead to serious complications. Not only are people with Crohn’s more likely to require hospitalization, they are 47% more likely to die prematurely, and 50% will require surgery.

New research shows early treatment can help prevent complications.

A recent Canadian study-the largest ever done in IBD-compared conventional therapy to a more proactive approach. The REACT (Randomized Evaluation of an Algorithm for Crohn’s Treatment) trial results, published in The Lancet, indicated a need to change how IBD is managed. Instead of conventional treatment, which simply alleviates symptoms, the new approach targets the underlying inflammation. According to Dr. Brian Feagan, lead author of the study and  Director of Robarts Clinical Trials at Western University, “Our research showed that the people who received timely combined treatment with immunosuppressant drugs, including biologics, had fewer surgeries, hospital admissions, and serious complications like pneumonia. By using treatments earlier in the disease progression, we saw long-term health benefits.”

Talk to your doctor about treatment.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of IBD, see your doctor. Medical tests (such as blood work, stool sampling, imaging, or endoscopic procedures) can help determine a diagnosis. If you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, discuss your treatment plan and goals with your doctor. Dr. Brian Bressler, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, emphasizes, “Getting diagnosed and starting therapy early-on can help to slow down the disease, relieve symptoms, and prevent complications-ultimately improving a patient’s quality of life.”

Supporting partner: