As someone who has Crohn's disease, I've noticed that there's a pretty significant lack of knowledge and a lot of misunderstanding surrounding these conditions. For Crohn's and colitis awareness month, here's what you should know:
"What is Crohn's disease and/or colitis?"
Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, causing chronic inflammation. Colitis can have several forms, one of the most common being ulcerative colitis. Colitis is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes inflammation in the colon.
"What's the difference between the two?"
Crohn's can appear anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract and in any layer of the GI walls. Crohn's is also patchy and can appear in different places during different flares. Colitis affects only the innermost layer of the colon and typically affects the same, larger area.
"How many people have Crohn's or colitis?"
About 1.5 million people have some sort of irritable bowel disease, or IBD. About 40% of the people affected by IBD have colitis and less than 15% have Crohn's disease. However, less than 5% of people have severe and active flares annually.
"What are the symptoms?"
There are a wide range of symptoms that Crohn's or colitis can cause, such as chronic diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, and fatigue. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe, but people with Crohn's and colitis still live busy, active lives.
"Is there a cure?"
No. Both Crohn's and colitis are lifelong conditions.
"Are there treatments?"
Yes. There are steroids, anti-inflammatories, and immunosuppressants that all help to slow the progression of the disease, achieve remission, and alleviate symptoms. Some cases may require surgery. However, dietary changes, vitamins, herbs, and lifestyle changes may also help.
"What causes Crohn's disease and/or colitis?"
There is no definitive answer as to what causes these conditions. It's thought to be a combination of genetics, immune system problems, and environmental factors. Crohn's and colitis are not contagious.
"What can I do?"
Learn more about Crohn's disease and colitis. Most countries have a non-profit organization that raises awareness and money for research for treatments and finding a cure The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) is a great resource.
To learn more about Crohn's disease and colitis, please click here: http://www.ccfa.org/