I realized that I have been talking about Crohn’s disease, but never really explained what it is. Sometimes I forget that everyone may not be familiar with a condition just because it’s very familiar to me.
First, I have to back track and reiterate that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 15. But, before that I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 9.
You will often hear the two terms used together, however, know that they are two different diseases. So, let me define both for you to perhaps have a better understanding.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
A chronic disease of the large intestine (or colon).
There are four varying types of ulcerative colitis.
Signs/Symptoms: loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, loose and/or bloody stool, low energy, and fatigue
What is Crohn’s?
A chronic disease of any part of the gastrointestinal tract (meaning from mouth to anus). In Crohn’s disease, the inflammation of the intestine can “skip”– leaving normal areas in between patches of diseased intestine. In ulcerative colitis this does not occur.
There are five varying types of Crohn’s.
Signs/Symptoms: loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, loose and/or bloody stool, low energy, and fatigue PLUS fever, constipation, and persistent diarrhea.
Characteristics of both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease:
- Both are types of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) – not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
- The causes of both are not entirely known or very well understood.
- Both are considered an autoimmune disease – the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances.
- Both produce chronic inflammation and ulcerations – these ulcers produce pus and mucous.
- Both have periods of flare-ups/relapses (when the disease is active) and periods of remission (when the disease is not active).
More about Crohn’s
Crohn’s disease may affect as many as 700,000 Americans and both men and women are equally likely to be affected. It can occur at any age, but is more prevalent among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.
Diet and stress may aggravate Crohn’s Disease, but they do not cause the disease on their own. Recent research suggests hereditary, genetics, and/or environmental factors contribute to the development of Crohn’s Disease.
There is no cure so treatment options include: medication, diet & nutrition, and surgery (to remove the diseased segment of bowel).
Growing up Crohn’s
When I was 9 all I remember was being bent over in excruciating pain. In and out of the hospital, being poked and prodded…not fun. Kids wondering what was wrong with me didn’t help the situation any either. But, once the doctors figured out what the problem was it’s like I could hear the choir singing “Ahhhhhhhhh”, like a big sigh of relief.
I was started on all sorts of steroids (which made my cheeks soooooo puffy) and other medication to control the inflammation. I was also on all sorts of pain medication while I was in the hospital, because it was THAT bad. Once the other medications kicked in my symptoms subsided and I was able to eventually go home.
Then some time goes by and I ended up having a relapse (or so we thought that’s what it was). I ended up showing the characteristics of Crohn’s and that’s what the diagnose was changed to.
I missed so much school that summer I had to have a tutor to catch me up on all my schoolwork so I wouldn’t repeat the 10th grade. I ended up back on the steroids for a while, so I had puffy cheeks once again with a bigger than usual appetite (the lovely side effects). This is the main reason why I hate any school pictures of me back then.
I have had so many surgeries it’s not even funny. On top of that I have too many scars to count from the surgeries and quite a few stretch marks from the rapid weight loss during the relapses.
I have spent so much time in the hospital I’m surprised they don’t have a wing in my honor. When I had children, I was actually happy to be in the hospital for reasons other than being sick.
Overall, my quality of life has gotten better as I get older since I have taken into consideration diet & nutrition. My last flare-up came out of nowhere, but didn’t last half as long as previous ones. Also, my medication is no longer and I have to go get a colonoscopy done every other year, but so far so good.
Do you have or know anyone that has Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis?
For more information check out the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America website.