The personal side of IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a serious condition that affects over 270,000 Canadians. Symptoms include stomach tenderness and swelling, constipation or diarrhea, weight loss, and rectal bleeding. But a list of symptoms doesn't tell the whole story. What's it really like to have IBD? Read Sharon's story to find out.

Sharon* is a 29-year-old human resources manager. At the age of 22 she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC), a form of IBD. Her symptoms started when she was in college. The first time she had the stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea, she thought she had a bad case of food poisoning. After a few more flare-ups and visits to several different doctors, Sharon finally found the cause for her symptoms: UC.

For Sharon, the worst part of having UC was the unpredictability. She never knew when an attack might strike, forcing her to run for the bathroom. Because of this, she wouldn't go anywhere without checking to make sure there would be a bathroom nearby. This made it hard for her to have a normal social life, and she began to withdraw from her friends and family. Because she felt self-conscious about her symptoms, she stayed away from dating.

Over the next few years, Sharon's UC symptoms got worse. She was hospitalized several times with abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Around age 27, Sharon reached an all-time low point; she had lost 40 pounds and had to take a leave of absence from work due to her severe symptoms. She couldn't do the things she enjoyed and her social life was non-existent. Plus, she became depressed because she felt that she would have to live with her symptoms for the rest of her life.

But then things turned around for Sharon. After trying several different medications, Sharon and her doctor decided on surgery to remove her colon and rectum. This surgery can cure UC, but it is usually reserved for severe cases like Sharon's. For about three months after the surgery, Sharon had to wear a bag outside her body to collect her solid waste. Then she had a second operation to allow her to have normal bowel movements.

Like any other surgery, Sharon's involved a certain level of risk. However, in her case, it was worth it. She found that her quality of life (feeling of well-being) after surgery was much better than before. Her UC symptoms no longer caused her physical and emotional pain, and she started to get back in touch with her friends. Eventually she was back to enjoying life again. In fact, she has even started dating!

What can we learn from Sharon's story? IBD can have a devastating impact on a person's quality of life. People with IBD can become isolated and depressed, and the condition can drastically affect their ability to work and enjoy life. But there are treatments available. If you have IBD or think you might, talk to your doctor about getting a diagnosis and finding a treatment option that is right for you.

*Sharon's story is a hypothetical story based on the combined experiences of patients with IBD.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: