Many people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) suffer silently. IBD is a chronic, life-changing disease that not only affects the digestive system, but the physical and mental wellness of the sufferer. We want you to know that there is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Your pain and discomfort should not prevent you from speaking up, contacting a gastroenterologist, and getting treatment for your unwelcome symptoms. At Associates in Digestive Health, our fantastic team of physicians who specialize in the treatment of the gastrointestinal tract, are determined to help you live a healthy, happy life, free from embarrassment of symptoms associated with IBD.
What Is IBD?
Inflammatory bowel disease occurs when the digestive tract becomes severely inflamed. Unfortunately, the exact causes for IBD are unknown. Doctors believe it is largely genetic. If someone in your family also suffers from IBD, you have a 20% higher chance of being diagnosed. New studies are revealing that IBD may initially be exposed to the body due to an abnormality in the immune system. If a bacteria or virus enters your body, your immune system gets to work fighting off that virus, but if it malfunctions, your immune system may begin attacking cells in your digestive tract, giving an invitation for inflammation.
The most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). While there are several differences between these two disorders, they share more similarities. Both of these diseases are chronic in nature, meaning there is no cure and if diagnosed, you will experience symptoms of IBD for your lifetime. Both of these diseases typically begin between the ages of 15-35, although it is possible for someone older to be diagnosed. Men and women are equally at risk for both Crohn’s and UC. Symptoms are also very similar between these two affiliates of IBD.
Symptoms Of IBD
In both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, you can expect to experience the following:
- Blood in your stool
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Weight Loss
- Loss of Appetite
These symptoms, chronic in nature, affect the course of your life. We know how painful and frustrating that can be. We also understand feeling embarrassed about sharing details of your bowel movements, but complications can arise and symptoms can progress if IBD is left untreated.
Crohn’s disease can manifest itself in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the rectum. However, in most cases Crohn’s is found at the ileum—the base of the small intestine at the connection point to the large intestine. Crohn’s is not dependent on what you eat, but maintaining a healthy diet may help prevent symptoms from flaring. Even though there is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease, treatment is available to help you manage your symptoms and live a relatively comfortable life. Often our patients suffering from Crohn’s experience a period of remission when symptoms are not felt.
Unlike Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is contained in the lower intestine or colon. The intense inflammation of the tissue lining the large intestine causes ulcers to form on the surface. UC is extremely unpredictable and symptoms can progress from mild to severe over time. While UC is also a lifelong disease with no cure, treatment plans can be created to help patients control the pain and discomfort. Remission is also the goal for UC treatments, and although it is often achieved, many patients experience the return of symptoms without warning.
You may be tempted to respond to IBD with discouragement. But before you surrender to a life of constant bathroom breaks, extreme pain, fatigue, and embarrassment we want to remind you that there is hope. A cure might not be possible, but treatment is! The first thing you have to do is schedule an appointment with us at Associates in Digestive Health. Be honest about all of your symptoms so that we can formulate a treatment plan that is perfect for you. The tricky part about IBD is that it affects everyone differently. We are up to the challenge to help you get back to a normal life.