You’ve probably heard of Crohn’s disease, but do you really know what Chron’s and colitis disease is? For starters, it’s actually pretty common. Every 30 minutes in the UK, someone is diagnosed with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
These are lifelong conditions that can have a big impact, but Crohn’s is often described as an ‘invisible illness’, because it’s not always apparent on the outside exactly what’s going on with somebody’s health. In other words, people might not ‘look’ as unwell as they are, which can contribute to lack of understanding and awareness.
People with Crohn’s disease commonly experience phases of intense abdominal pain, exhaustion, bloody diarrhoea, sore, swollen joints and a number of other unpleasant symptoms behind closed doors.
While Crohn’s is a lifelong condition and can be difficult to live with at times, particularly when it comes to unpredictable flare-ups, the good news is that lots can be done to help manage it. And if symptoms are well controlled, you can still live a full life with Crohn’s.
“Crohn’s is one of the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease and is a lifelong disease of the gut,” says Shah. “It is painful, debilitating and widely misunderstood – and there is no known cure.”
She explains that for people with Crohn’s, the immune system doesn’t function as it’s meant to. “Your body starts attacking itself, causing ulcers and inflammation in the gut. Imagine having a wound that never heals, but only it’s on the inside.”
The condition doesn’t just affect the gut though. “It can affect almost every part of your body and every aspect of your life – from your digestion to your energy levels and mental health,” adds Shah. “People living with the condition face a lifetime of medication and, in many cases, major surgery.”
While it’s not entirely clear why Crohn’s happens, research has suggested it’s possible that a virus or bacterium may trigger it. When your immune system tries to fight off the invading microorganism, an abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract too.
Studies have also found that Crohn’s is more common in people who have family members with the disease, so genes may play a role in making some people more predisposed to developing it.
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