Hello and welcome to the 19th May 2016. The 19th May is an important date for me, over 300,000 people across the UK and millions more worldwide. It’s an important date because it’s used globally to raise awareness for IBD.
What does IBD stand for I hear you ask? No, it does not stand for International Book Day, it does in fact stand for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which is not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
IBD comes in 3 main forms, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and Indeterminate Colitis. These are all incurable, chronic, autoimmune diseases that affect your digestive system. Colitis is restricted to your large intestine whereas Crohn’s Disease, which is what I have, can affect any part of your digestive system. With IBD, a patient’s immune system does not do its job properly. It gets confused and attacks the digestive system, causing damage which results in a variety of symptoms.
The main symptoms of IBD (which vary per patient, from mild to severe) are:
- Diarrhoea. This is sometimes mixed with blood, mucus and pus.
- Cramping pains in the abdomen. These can be very severe and often occur before passing a stool.
- Tiredness and fatigue. This can be due to the illness itself, from anaemia (see below) from the side effects of some of the drugs used for IBD or from a lack of sleep if you have to keep getting up at night with pain or diarrhoea.
- Feeling generally unwell. Some people may feel feverish.
- Loss of appetite and loss of weight. Weight loss can be due to the body not absorbing nutrients from the food you eat because of the inflammation in the gut.
- Anaemia (a reduced number of red blood cells). You are more likely to develop anaemia if you are losing a lot of blood and are not eating much.
- Mouth ulcers.
The following video is one of the best explanations I’ve come across for explaining the ins and outs of IBD.
The damage that IBD does often results in major surgery and nearly all patients require a variety of daily medications. This not only has a dramatic effect of a patient’s physical health but also on their mental health. It can be very difficult to maintain a healthy social life.
Patients with IBD want to use #WorldIBDDay to raise awareness of these diseases. There are more people with IBD than Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease combined yet very few people truly understand what IBD is. As a patient myself, I’m not going to ask you to donate to a charity, I just want you to read about IBD, understand what it is and how it affects people’s lives. It’s important to understand that if someone looks healthy on the outside, it does not necessarily mean they are healthy and feeling well on the inside.