The hidden toll of IBD

IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease, is a life-long condition affecting the bowels and other parts of the body. It can cause attacks of diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and cramps, loss of appetite, and weight loss. It can also cause other symptoms, such as fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, and eye inflammation. Symptoms are unpredictable, and attacks may occur at any time. By 2030, approximately 1 out of every 100 Canadians is expected to be diagnosed with IBD. There are two forms of IBD: Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).

Life with IBD can be hard to imagine for someone who's never experienced the disease. There's much more to IBD than just diarrhea. Read Martha's story to learn about the life of an IBD sufferer.

Martha,* a 37-year-old interior designer and mother of two, has Crohn's disease (CD), a form of IBD. Since she was diagnosed 6 years ago, her disease has been getting worse. Martha's symptoms come and go. When Martha has a flare-up, she experiences abdominal pain, cramping, and frequent diarrhea. She describes the pain as being "worse than childbirth," and says that during a flare-up she "practically lives in the bathroom" due to the frequent diarrhea.

Martha has lost countless weeks of work to flare-ups over the years. Her work colleagues used to resent her frequent sick days and couldn't understand why she was away so often. They became more supportive after she reached out to them to explain how the disease affects her life.

Martha has also been hospitalized twice during particularly bad flare-ups. But for Martha, the worst part of having CD was the way it took over her life. She let the disease decide where she would go and when, and she lived under the shadow of never knowing when she might have a flare-up.

Over the years, Martha tried several medications for her CD. But it wasn't until she visited a new gastroenterologist last year that she found a treatment that really worked for her. Now her flare-ups are less frequent and her symptoms are easier to live with. Her life is getting "back to the way it was before," and sometimes she is even able to forget that she has CD.

Martha's story can provide some valuable lessons for people with IBD and their friends and family. If you have IBD, or think you might, talk to your doctor or gastroenterologist about your treatment options. Newer medications are now available that can control IBD itself, not just the symptoms. It can be helpful to tell your story to friends, family, and colleagues. The better they understand the condition you're living with, the more they'll be able to help. Use your judgment as a guide to how much detail you're comfortable sharing.

If you know someone with IBD, Martha's story can give you a window onto one person's life with IBD. Understanding what an IBD sufferer is going through will help you offer support and assistance. Don't be afraid to ask the person with IBD for more information about their condition and what you can do to help.

* Martha's story is a hypothetical story based on the combined experiences of patients with Crohn's disease. It is intended to represent one person's experience with Crohn's disease and medication treatment. It is not intended to be representative of all people with Crohn's disease or to provide any endorsements or recommendations regarding Crohn's disease therapy.

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