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Family History Plays a Large Role In IBD

Rachel Morrell

Family History Plays a Large Role In IBD

Family history plays a part in several diseases, and inflammatory bowel disease is just one of many examples. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the collective term for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The cause of these conditions is not known, but they could be caused by environmental factors, changes in the immune system and genetic predisposition.

New studies suggest that the risk for inflammatory bowel disease is significantly higher among first, second and third-degree relatives with inflammatory bowel disease. This is particularly prevalent among younger family members.

To give an example of family risk among an entire population, Frederik T. Moller, M.D., from Statens Serum Institut in Denmark used national registry data in Denmark. He and his colleagues examined the Danish population from 1977 to 2011. They found 45,857 inflammatory bowel disease cases and data on first-degree (parents, siblings, offspring), second-degree (grandchildren, uncles, aunts and half-siblings) and third-degree (half uncles and aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews) relatives.

The study found that 6.6 percent of Crohn’s disease and 4.8 percent of ulcerative colitis patients had a positive family history, but the most recent numbers increased to 12.2 percent and 8.8 percent respectively. Inflammatory bowel disease definitely does run in families. With patients who suffered from Crohn’s disease and had a positive family history, 72 percent had a first-degree relative with IBD, 23 percent had a second-degree relative with IBD and 5 percent had a third-degree relative with IBD. The corresponding percentages for ulcerative colitis were amazingly similar at 77 percent, 19 percent and 4 percent.

People who had more than one relative with IBD were at even higher risk, and younger age groups were especially at risk.

 “In general, first-degree relatives of IBD cases had a seven-to-eight times increased risk of contracting IBD, compared with sporadic cases, and this risk was most pronounced in early life,” Moller said. “While the rate ratios presented may be more generalizable, the presented absolute risk estimates are applicable mainly in a setting with prevalence and incidence data compatible with Danish incidence and prevalence” (Source: Healio).

There are many therapies available for IBD such as nutritional therapy, surgery, education and treatment of psychosocial issues. Treatment is individualized for each patient, depending on the severity of symptoms or the area of the small or large intestine that is affected. Sometimes, severely diseased sections of the intestine are removed during surgery, and this cures ulcerative colitis. Surgery may be a good option for Crohn’s disease when a patient fails to grow during treatment and:

  • Medicines are not helping
  • The patient develops secondary complications
  • Significant time has passed since diagnosis. About 50 to 70 percent of young people have to have surgery for Crohn’s disease within 10 to 15 years after diagnosis (Source: Cleveland Clinic).

If you want to know more about inflammatory bowel disease, talk to your gastroenterologist.

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