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Regional experts urge collaboration to advance the management of inflammatory bowel diseases in Lebanon

More than 125 gastroenterologists, hepatologists and internal medicine specialists gathered recently at the first Middle East Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) summit, which was held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The two-day event was organized by Takeda Pharmaceuticals, one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies, focused on the impact of delayed diagnosis on IBD progression, tools for early diagnosis and referral, the important role patient organizations have to drive optimal levels of awareness, as well as diagnostics and therapeutic markers.

Dr. Ala Sharara, Professor, Division of Gastroenterology, American University of Beirut Medical Center said, “People of any age can get IBD, but it’s usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40.[1] In Lebanon, more studies are needed to examine local risk factors, disease genotypes and phenotypes, and epidemiologic time trends. The psychosocial burden of IBD in Lebanon appears significant.[2] In a recent study that included 15,073 individuals, 8 had a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and 16 of ulcerative colitis, giving an age-adjusted prevalence of 53.1 per 100,000 people for Crohn’s disease and 106.2 per 100,000 people for ulcerative colitis[3].”

“Some of the common challenges amongst IBD adapters, deniers and submitters include spending time and emotional energy managing the symptoms and not considering the long-term management of their disease. IBD ends up affecting personal and professional choices. Our insights suggest that people living with IBD are troubled by their symptoms and the impact of the disease on their lives. Some are also frustrated in a diagnosis wilderness with no consensus on how to treat their condition. There is a direct educational need to drive multidisciplinary care through early diagnosis and advanced disease management,” added Dr. Sharara.

Regional experts also highlighted that in Lebanon, more awareness is needed to increase the understanding of IBD and its impact on patients. Increasing awareness may contribute to some of the rise in incidence, while recognition of Crohn’s disease as distinct from ulcerative colitis may also contribute to some of the incidence shifts between the two forms of IBD.[4]

Internationally, the incidence of IBD is approximately 0.5-24.5 cases per 100,000 person-years for ulcerative colitis and 0.1-16 cases per 100,000 person-years for Crohn disease. Overall, the prevalence for IBD is 396 cases per 100,000 persons annually. The annual incidence of Crohn disease in the Middle East is 5.0 per 100,000 persons; whereas the incidence rate of ulcerative colitis is 6.3 per 100,000 persons .[5]

IBD is a group of disorders that impact the digestive tract. Types of IBD include ulcerative colitis, which causes long lasting inflammation and sores in the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum, as well as Crohn’s disease, which is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, often spreading deep into affected tissues.[6] Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease usually involve severe bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss.

[1] NHS | Inflammatory Bowel Disease | www.nhs.uk/conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/

[2] Clinical epidemiology of IBD in Lebanon | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17206720

[3] Clinical epidemiology of IBD in Lebanon | https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6593950_Clinical_Epidemiology_of_Inflammatory_Bowel_Disease_in_Lebanon

[4] Inflammatory Bowel Disease | A Global Disease | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603483/

[5] Medscape | IBD | https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/179037-overview#a5

[6] Mayo Clinic | Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) | https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353315

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