Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to disorders involving long-term or chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two main types of IBD, which can involve organs other than the digestive system, affecting the joints, skin and eyes.

estimated number of people in Singapore who have IBD

16–40 years
age range in which IBD is most commonly diagnosed

An auto-inflammatory disease where the body’s immune system mounts an inappropriate response against the digestive tract, IBD increases the risk of colon cancer and need for surgery, especially if the inflammation is not well controlled. Up to 50 per cent of patients with Crohn’s disease and 30 per cent of patients with ulcerative colitis require at least one disease-related surgery in their lifetime.

Once considered a Western disease, IBD is increasingly common in Asia. A modern diet, smoking, exposure to antibiotics, and environmental factors are thought to contribute to the rise of IBD.

Blood tests, scans to diagnose

- Blood tests include full blood count, C-reactive protein,
kidney panel, liver panel, vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron levels 
- Stool tests for presence of bacteria through stool culture, microscopy, Clostridioides difficile PCR and calprotectin
- XCT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of abdomen, pelvis, small intestines to check for inflammation
- Endoscopy, colonoscopy to obtain tissue biopsies for
microscopic examination

Remission, recurrence

IBD cannot be cured, but it can be well controlled with anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications, and by following a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Even when it is in remission, patients should continue taking the medications prescribed, and have regular blood tests, imaging and endoscopy checks to stay well.

​Inflammatory Bowel Disease Centre at SGH

​The Inflammatory Bowel Disease Centre is staffed by a multidisciplinary team trained to manage ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The team — comprising medical specialists, dietitians, nurses and pharmacists — provides patients with seamless and integrated care, including medical and surgical treatments. The centre coordinates services in gastroenterology, colorectal surgery, radiology, pathology, pharmacy, nutrition, nursing and research