People who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) know well its physical effects. But physical symptoms are not the only effects of IBD. IBD sufferers’ entire lives are affected, so they often end up seeing many different doctors. A new model of medical care is being used to help people with IBD cope with all of its effects.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the main inflammatory bowel diseases that are caused by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system against the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. It can cause severe diarrhea, stomach pain and cramping, bleeding, weight loss and malnutrition. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the colon. The lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops tiny open sores, or ulcers, that produce pus and mucus. It causes stomach pain, diarrhea, bleeding, weight loss and fatigue. No one knows exactly what causes either disease. Complications from both diseases can lead to hospitalization and surgery. Medications can be aggressive and may have side effects but often help to put people in remission. IBD usually strikes people between the ages of 15-35.
Miguel D. Regueiro, MD, professor of medicine and of clinical and translational science, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, says that IBD also carries a stigma.
“People generally don’t like talking about their bowels,” he says. “People often live with IBD silently and don’t talk to family or friends about it. It can make them nervous about being out in public. The stigma can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety.”