Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) is a broad term that describes conditions with chronic or recurring immune response and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The two most common inflammatory bowel diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both illnesses have one strong feature in common. They are marked by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. Normally, the immune cells protect the body from infection. In people with IBD, however, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign substances and it attacks the cells of the intestines. In the process, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines where they produce chronic inflammation. When this happens, the patient experiences the symptoms of IBD.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder that affects the motility (muscle contractions) of the colon. Sometimes called "spastic colon" or "nervous colitis," IBS is not characterized by intestinal inflammation and bears no direct relationship to either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Sufferers of IBS, however, may experience the same or similar symptoms and limitations.

Symptoms include persistent diarrhea (loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements), cramping abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and, at times, rectal bleeding.

It is important that you let your doctors know about each of your symptoms and how you are limited by your illness. Social Security will consider the objective evidence that documents your illness as well as the subjective symptoms (such as pain and fatigue) It is also helpful to keep a log of your symptoms, how often you experience symptoms, how long such symptoms last and the intensity of your symptoms. Social Security will consider how often a claimant with IBD would miss work or be away from work because of the need to use the bathroom. Statements from former employers may be helpful to establish disability as well. As with other chronic illnesses, one’s mental health can be affected: Treatment for depression or other associated mental/emotional conditions is recommended.

To read more about inflammatory bowel diseases, see: http://www.cdc.gov/ibd/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001295/