Scotland’s capital global hotspot for IBD

Thursday 1st August 2019

One in 125 people in Scotland’s capital city suffer from inflammatory bowel disease – one of the highest known rates in the world – and researchers are expecting that number to rise over the next ten years.

The number of people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – is predicted to rise to one in 98 by 2028.

Lifelong and debilitating conditions with no known cure, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are characterised by highly unpredictable and intrusive symptoms, such as diarrhoea, pain, weight loss and extreme fatigue.

While patients with IBD require regular treatment and monitoring, the condition has a low mortality. Experts say this – combined with an ageing population – means the number of older people with IBD is set to increase in the coming years.

The resulting increase in pressure on NHS resources has been highlighted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh.

Crohn’s disease affects 284 people out of every 100,000 in Scotland’s capital. The world’s highest rate is 322 people out of 100,000 in Hesse, Germany.

Ulcerative colitis, meanwhile, affects 432 people out of every 100,000 in Edinburgh – second in the world only to south-east Norway, where it affects 505 people in every 100,000.

These findings broadly apply to the rest of Scotland, the UK and across the western world, researchers say. 

Dr Gareth-Rhys Jones, clinical lecturer in IBD at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Inflammation Research, said:

IBD is a condition that disrupts the lives of patients and their families all too frequently. Our findings highlight that more resources are needed to provide patients with the research, treatment and care they deserve.”

The cause of the condition is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by an overactive gut immune response in genetically pre-disposed people. The makeup of normal gut bacteria and diet can also play an important role.

There is no doubt that IBD is now becoming a global pandemic,” adds Dr Charlie Lees, a consultant gastroenterologist in the Edinburgh IBD Unit.

This study provides much-needed data and can act as a launchpad for pivotal new studies to help patients.”

Sarah Sleet, CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: “This important study contributes to the growing evidence that the prevalence of IBD is significantly higher than is currently recognised.”