Published date: 18 May 2018
19 May marks World IBD Day, a day that unites people all over the world in their fight against Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These are the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). They cause inflammation in the bowel and the symptoms can be debilitating.
While the exact cause remains unknown, one possibility is an immune system malfunction. When your immune system tries to fight off an invading virus or bacterium, an abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells of the digestive tract.
Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea (often with blood), extreme fatigue, dramatic weight loss, anaemia, depression, osteoporosis, mouth ulcers, swollen joints, joint pain and fistulas.
Because the symptoms of the disease are still a taboo topic in today’s society, living with IBD can be so much harder. The anxiety of always having to know where the next toilet is, or having an unpredictable diarrhoea attack, follows people with the disease wherever they go. Running simple errands can feel like running a gauntlet.
The fact that the large majority of these symptoms are invisible to the naked eye, often drives those affected into isolation.
Source: My Crohn’s and Colitis Team (2016). Crohn’s and Colitis: What People Don’t See (Infographic). [image] Available at: https://www.mycrohnsandcolitisteam.com/resources/crohns-and-colitis-what-people-dont-see-infographic [Accessed 16 May 2018].
However, more and more people are starting to speak openly about their life with IBD, be it facts on the condition, their personal approach to managing IBD symptoms, or their experience with IBD treatment. This change is contributing greatly to moving us away from a society where the stigma of certain health conditions causes [people affected with] them to be perceived as invisible.
I have been fighting my own personal battle with UC since 2009, so know first-hand the impact it can have on someone’s life. Since diagnosis, I have kept my condition private with only close friends, family and co-workers being informed on a need-to-know basis. I believed that by sharing my story I would open myself up to not only support, but also criticism – from people who believe that we are using the disease as a way of attention seeking.
This could not be further from the truth: instead, we would like to use the opportunity to inspire and educate, because after all, what we sufferers need is greater awareness. That’s why I’m delighted to support World IBD Day.
Right now, although there are as yet no known cures, pharmaceutical companies are constantly working on new treatments to help sufferers achieve and retain remission. Charities such as Crohn’s and Colitis UK are also paving the way by improving health services, raising awareness and offering support to sufferers and their families/friends. They have been instrumental to the ‘accessible toilets’ campaign which educates the public about invisible illnesses. Several major supermarkets now carry the ‘not every disability is visible’ sign on their accessible toilets: a huge breakthrough!
If you would like to find out more about IBD, head to the Crohn’s & Colitis UK or World IBD Day website, where you will find a lot more information on the disease and what it entails, as well as ideas on how you can get involved and support the charity or a loved one with IBD.
And … don’t forget to show your support by wearing it Purple this World IBD Day – 19 May!
The Purple Agency healthcare team works with many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Over the last 10 years, we are proud to have localised content and created campaigns that help our clients raise awareness of diseases, communicate therapy options to clinicians and give them the information and resources they need to help them improve outcomes for their patients