Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis (together known as inflammatory bowel diseases or IBD) affect more than 80 000 people in Australia, and are becoming more common. It is estimated that 1 in 250 Australians aged 5-40 have IBD.
IBD results in inflammation of the gut, the lining swells and becomes fragile and this causes intermittent diarrhoea, blood and/or mucous with bowel motions, abdominal pain and occasionally other symptoms like joint aches and rashes. These symptoms usually develop in early adulthood but can come on at any age. Any of these symptoms should be investigated by colonoscopy and the diagnosis is made by looking at the appearance of the bowel lining, and taking biopsies to determine the type of IBD.
The exact cause of IBD is not yet clear and is the subject of ongoing research. These are chronic conditions requiring long term treatment, usually by a combination of medical (gastroenterology) and surgical (colorectal) doctors.
Around 1/3 of people with colitis and 2/3 of people with Crohns will require surgery of some sort, either to improve quality of life, or less often to treat serious complications. Surgery can range from simple day case procedures such as draining abscesses, to bowel resections, formation of pouches, and in the case of ulcerative colitis surgery can be curative.
The Crohn’s and colitis foundation offers holistic and practical support to people living with IBD, and also supports research to find better treatments for these long-term conditions. Their ‘Live Fearless’ challenge can be found here. The challenge is raising awareness and funds to support people living with Crohn’s and colitis.