Urbanisation spurs rise of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in rural Telangana

Updated - August 08, 2023 04:01 pm IST

Published - August 05, 2023 09:09 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) has undergone a significant shift in prevalence in India, as per a recent study published in the Lancet journal. The study discovered that IBD is now as prevalent in rural areas just as it is in urban areas, contrasting with the situation two decades ago when it was more widespread in the west.

The research conducted by AIG Hospitals, Hyderabad, examined 32,021 patients between March 2020 and May 2022, with 30,835 patients providing complete data. The study covered more than 150 villages across Telangana touching across 1.75 lakh people. The study points to urbanisation of rural areas as a leading cause of this shift. With changing environments and dietary habits, the availability of processed food has increased, contributing to the rise in IBD cases. Out of the total patients assessed, 6,362 were from rural settings, while 24,473 were from urban areas. During the 26-month assessment, 1,680 people were identified as suffering from IBD, with 992 of them having Crohn’s Disease (CD) and 688 having Ulcerative Colitis (UC).

For patients with CD, the most common symptoms were abdominal pain (70%), chronic diarrhoea (30%), changes in bowel habits (33%), rectal bleeding (19%), and anaemia (9%). Meanwhile, patients with UC predominantly experienced bloody diarrhea (96%), followed by abdominal pain (56%), and unintentional weight loss (18%).

“It is estimated that more than 15 lakh people in India are suffering from IBD but the true picture is not clear as we don’t have a large scale, population-based epidemiological study to understand the exact incidence rate.,” said Dr. D Nageshwar Reddy, Chairman, AIG Hospitals.

The study also indicates that India is currently in an acceleration phase, with a rapidly increasing incidence of IBD but still relatively low prevalence. The country, along with China, both with populations exceeding one billion, is poised to surpass the West in total affected patients within the next decade if this trend continues.

Dr. Rupa Banerjee, Director, IBD Center, AIG Hospitals and Principal Author of the study said, “With the advent of globalisation, IBD made its entry into the developing world and today we are in the similar situation where the west was two decades back. The most problematic thing about the incidence of IBD especially in India is the age group that is getting affected and it is the active, working population between 20–40 years who are getting diagnosed more frequently.”

In response to these findings, the team of doctors from AIG Hospitals has suggested that the government increases awareness of lifestyle diseases in rural areas and emphasise the importance of diet and exercise for the rural population. Constant monitoring is recommended, along with the implementation of regulations on ultra-processed food, similar to those in European countries.

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