As we wrap up the end of the year, we reflect on Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week that took place during the first week of December. Do you know someone who was recently diagnosed? Maybe they often visit a GI specialist but you have no clue what a GI specialist does. Maybe your friend has been opting out on indulging in foods and drinks you used to normally enjoy together and you keep wondering what the huge deal is.
If you have friends or family who have one or both diseases but are unclear as to what having Crohn’s and Colitis entails, then this blog is just for you. Here’s some information you may need to get an improved understanding of what your loved ones may be facing as they continue to live with their disease. If you yourself happen to be someone living with Crohn’s or Colitis, be sure to share this with others to help give them a better understanding.
What To Know About Crohn’s
Crohn’s disease causes the immune system to attack healthy bacteria in the GI tract. This leads to swelling and inflammation which causes the intestinal wall to thicken and symptoms of crohn’s to increase. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and severe stomach pains after eating. If only the colon is affected, symptoms can include joint pain, skin lesions, diarrhea, bleeding, and ulcers. Other general symptoms often include fatigue, fever, and night sweats.
While there is no singular test to diagnose crohn’s, there are several other tests one can take to rule out other options to help narrow it down to crohn’s. Making a visit to a GI doctor can help you decide what tests you may need, such as a CT scan, MRI, blood tests, endoscopy, or colonoscopy. Those ages 15-30 are more likely to be diagnosed with crohn’s as well as those who are Caucasian or Ashkenazi Jewish. The disease is also more likely to show up in men rather than women but not by much.
Pain from crohn’s comes in many forms and can have negative effects on one’s wallet. Expensive medical bills come hand-in-hand with those looking to diagnose and treat their crohn’s disease. From doctor visits to hospital services and treatments, the average cost of treating a patient with crohn’s is set around $8,265 per year.
What To Know About Colitis
There are several types of colitis which pinpoint certain areas that are affected. Ulcerative proctitis affects the rectum, proctosigmoiditis affects the rectum and sigmoid colon, left-sided colitis affects the rectum to an area near the spleen, and panulceratve colitis affects the entire colon.
Limited to the large intestine, ulcerative colitis occurs in the rectum and colon, and inflames the innermost lining of the intestine. Around 10-25% of people who have ulcerative colitis have a close relative such as a brother, sister, or parent who has the disease, or crohn’s, as well. Ulcerative colitis affects men and women equally, usually between the ages of 15-30, just like crohn’s disease. About 700,000 people living in the US have ulcerative colitis.
Complications from crohn’s disease include fissures and tears in the anus, bleeding, pain, swelling, ulcers, and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Along with the same symptoms of crohn’s, those who have ulcerative colitis can also experience additional issues with their livers later on.
There is no cure for crohn’s and ulcerative colitis and only a combo of treatments can help to alleviate symptoms and flare-ups. In fact, 70% of crohn’s patients eventually need surgery to repair or remove obstructions, and further flare-ups are extremely likely to occur even after surgery.
Reducing symptoms of crohn’s can come in the form of eating well and avoiding stress as much as possible. Though there is no proof that an unhealthy diet and stress cause crohn’s, it is possible that flare-ups might increase because of these factors. That being said, it is best to follow instructions from a doctor, gastrologist, or dietician to fit your own needs. Quitting smoking may help cut down symptoms with crohn’s as well.
For those who have some form of only colitis or both colitis and crohn’s disease, getting some extra shuteye at night might help. According to a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2014, women with ulcerative colitis who got less than 6 hours of sleep a day had an increased risk of flares.
What Can You Do
Use this information to help spread awareness to others in hopes that we can help keep everyone informed. Next time your friend or family member stops by for a visit, ask them if they would like some water instead of a strong drink, pick a hot spot to eat that serves healthy options, or simply be a shoulder to lean on when they seem to be having some discomfort.
We may not always understand what someone else is going through but it helps to make an effort to learn more about those around us.