Stricture: Inflammatory Bowel Disease Explained

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term that encompasses a group of disorders that cause chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. One of the complications that can arise from IBD is a stricture. A stricture, in the context of IBD, refers to a narrowing of a section of the digestive tract due to inflammation and scar tissue formation. This article will delve into the intricacies of strictures, their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Understanding the concept of strictures in IBD is crucial for patients and healthcare providers alike. It allows for better management of the condition, timely intervention, and improved quality of life for patients. The information provided here is based on extensive research and aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. The two types of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Both of these conditions can be debilitating and sometimes lead to life-threatening complications, such as strictures.

While the exact cause of IBD remains unknown, it's believed to result from an abnormal immune response. The immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the digestive tract, causing inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can lead to the formation of scar tissue, which can narrow the digestive tract and cause a stricture.

Types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two main types of IBD. Crohn's disease can cause inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus, but it most commonly affects the end of the small intestine. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, only affects the colon (large intestine) and the rectum.

Both diseases share some common symptoms, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss. However, they also have unique symptoms. For instance, people with Crohn's disease often experience pain in the lower right abdomen, while those with ulcerative colitis may have bloody stools and an urgency to defecate.

What is a Stricture?

A stricture refers to an abnormal narrowing of a bodily passage. In the context of IBD, a stricture is a narrowing of a section of the digestive tract due to inflammation and scar tissue formation. This can lead to a blockage, making it difficult for food and waste to pass through.

Strictures can occur anywhere along the digestive tract but are most common in the small intestine and colon. They can cause a range of symptoms, from mild discomfort to severe pain and potentially life-threatening complications. Understanding the signs and symptoms of a stricture is crucial for early detection and treatment.

Causes of Strictures

Strictures in IBD are primarily caused by chronic inflammation and the subsequent formation of scar tissue. When the digestive tract is repeatedly inflamed, it can lead to the formation of ulcers. As these ulcers heal, they can leave behind scar tissue. Over time, this scar tissue can build up and narrow the passage of the digestive tract, forming a stricture.

Other factors that can contribute to the formation of strictures include genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and certain medications. However, inflammation remains the primary driver of stricture formation in IBD.

Symptoms of Strictures

The symptoms of strictures can vary depending on the location and severity of the stricture. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and changes in bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea. In severe cases, a stricture can lead to a complete blockage of the digestive tract, which is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.

It's important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it's crucial to seek medical advice if you're experiencing any of these symptoms. Early detection and treatment of strictures can help prevent complications and improve the quality of life for people with IBD.

Diagnosis of Strictures

Diagnosing a stricture involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. Your doctor may ask about your symptoms, any history of IBD, and any family history of the disease. They may also perform a physical examination to check for any signs of a stricture, such as abdominal tenderness or swelling.

Imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, can provide a detailed view of the digestive tract and help identify any areas of narrowing. In some cases, an endoscopy may be performed, which involves inserting a thin tube with a camera into the digestive tract to directly visualize the stricture.

Treatment of Strictures

Treatment for strictures depends on the severity and location of the stricture, as well as the overall health of the patient. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve quality of life. Treatment options can range from medication to manage inflammation and prevent further scar tissue formation, to surgery to remove or widen the stricture.

It's important to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that's right for you. This includes regular follow-up appointments to monitor your condition and adjust treatment as necessary.


Medication is often the first line of treatment for strictures in IBD. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids, can help reduce inflammation and prevent further scar tissue formation. Immunosuppressant drugs may also be used to help control the immune response and reduce inflammation.

In some cases, medication may not be enough to manage a stricture, or the side effects may be too severe. In these cases, other treatment options may be considered.


Surgery may be considered if medication is not effective, or if the stricture is causing severe symptoms or complications. The type of surgery will depend on the location and severity of the stricture. In some cases, the stricture may be removed or widened to allow food and waste to pass through more easily.

While surgery can provide relief from symptoms, it's not a cure for IBD or strictures. It's possible for strictures to recur after surgery, so ongoing management of IBD is crucial.

Living with Strictures

Living with strictures can be challenging, but with the right treatment and management strategies, most people with strictures can lead a normal, healthy life. It's important to work closely with your healthcare provider and to follow your treatment plan closely. Regular follow-up appointments are crucial to monitor your condition and adjust treatment as necessary.

It's also important to take care of your overall health. This includes eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. If you have IBD and are experiencing symptoms of a stricture, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Support and Resources

Living with IBD and strictures can be challenging, but you don't have to do it alone. There are many resources available to help you manage your condition and improve your quality of life. This includes support groups, educational materials, and advocacy organizations. These resources can provide valuable information, emotional support, and practical advice to help you navigate life with IBD and strictures.

Remember, it's okay to ask for help. Reach out to your healthcare provider, a mental health professional, or a support group if you're feeling overwhelmed. You're not alone, and there are people and resources available to help you.


Strictures are a common complication of inflammatory bowel disease, but with the right treatment and management strategies, they can be effectively managed. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for strictures can help you take an active role in your care and improve your quality of life.

Remember, it's important to seek medical advice if you're experiencing symptoms of a stricture. Early detection and treatment can help prevent complications and improve your quality of life. With the right support and resources, you can navigate life with IBD and strictures and lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

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