Piecing together the puzzle of IBD
Why personalised healthcare may provide the full picture of inflammatory bowel diseases.
Imagine trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle but only having half the pieces. You manage to piece together one or two sections, but many others remain a mystery, and you are never able to see the complete picture. In some ways, this is what it has been like for doctors treating inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
IBD is a highly complex disease and – just like that jigsaw puzzle – we do not have all the pieces at our disposal to see the full picture. IBD is actually not one single disease but rather a group of long-term disorders, including ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). And each disease under the umbrella of IBD can vary hugely from person to person.
“Different patients can experience different symptoms, and these can also differ from day to day. For some patients, pain is the most important problem, for others it might be fatigue. Furthermore, there are differences in terms of what symptoms mean to people. A mother with two children has different needs than a student. In order to find the right treatment for the right patient, patients need to be involved in the discussion and we need to move towards genuine shared decision making.” – Luisa Avedano, CEO, European Federation of Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis Associations (EFCCA)
The variation is because IBD’s causes and drivers are so complex. There are some genetic elements at play, but these are not enough to explain the majority of IBD cases.
So, what’s the secret to seeing the full picture of IBD? It may come down to collecting more puzzle pieces: researchers believe that there is a range of factors that are important for disease development, including environmental, genetic and immune factors, so it is important to look at them all together.
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