Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis are diseases of the gut that can be debilitating for many sufferers. These long-term conditions in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed are two types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Symptoms can include abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition with severity of symptoms varying from person to person. Symptoms also depend on how much of the rectum and colon is inflamed and how severe the inflammation is. For some people, the condition(s) can have a significant impact on their everyday lives.
The symptoms of IBD can come and go. There may be times when the symptoms are severe, followed by long periods when there are few or no symptoms at all.
Ulcerative colitis is thought to be an autoimmune condition. The most popular theory is that the immune system mistakes harmless bacteria inside the colon for a threat and attacks the tissues of the colon, causing it to become inflamed.
Crohn’s disease is believed to be caused by a combination of factors such as, genetics, an abnormal reaction by the immune system whereby it attacks the digestive system or bacteria in the digestive system, alongside unknown triggers including viruses, bacteria, diet, smoking, and stress.
There is currently no known cure for Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis, but therapies can greatly reduce their signs and symptoms and even bring about long-term remission for some. However, many IBD sufferers struggle with the stigma associated with having a bowel condition, and do not seek help from their GP, meaning thousands are suffering in silence.
The unpredictability of flare-ups of Crohn’s and Colitis can be hard to cope with emotionally and practically. It may help to:
- Tell your friends and family about your condition so they may better understand the effect it has on your life.
- Talk to your GP or care team who can offer support, treatment, and referral to a specialist or counsellor if needed.
- Use support groups like Crohn’s and Colitis UK.