Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis: Dr. Graham Gibb Weighs in on Taking Charge of IBD

Receiving a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis is an overwhelming and often frightening experience. Not only for the person who has received this life-changing information, but for their loved ones too. What does this diagnosis mean? What can be done? How can someone fight back and feel stronger? These are just some of the questions that flood the mind upon hearing this news. While there is currently no cure for these diseases, there are modern treatments that help people live relatively normal and productive lives. Dr. Graham Gibb, a general and colorectal surgeon, weighs in on taking charge of IBD.

Understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The first step to diminish feelings of worry is to gain a proper understanding of what the diagnosis is. Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The causes of IBD are unknown. However, doctors believe there are similar contributing factors, including the inappropriate response of the body’s immune system, genetic factors, and environmental factors.

Most people are diagnosed with IBD before the age of 30, but there are some instances of IBD appearing later in life. While the symptoms of each disease are very similar, there are some important differences when it comes to understanding these diagnoses.

Common Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

These diseases result in long-term inflammation of the digestive system. Those with IBD can expect periods of disease flare-up and periods of remission. Symptoms experienced by those with either disease may experience:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Belly cramps and belly pain
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever
  • Low appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Menstruation problems

What’s the difference between Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?

The main difference between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is which part of the GI tract is affected. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the large intestine and only affects the innermost lining of the colon. There are ulcers in the lining of the colon, as well as inflammation.

With Crohn’s disease, inflammation can appear anywhere along the GI tract from the mouth to the anus. Patches of inflammation occur between healthy portions of the gut and can penetrate the intestinal layers from inner to the outer lining.

How Sufferers of Crohn’s and Colitis Can Take Charge of Their Health

Since there are similarities between the conditions, many treatments for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease overlap. Medication is used to manage inflammation, and there are five different types of medication that doctors use, including:

  • Steroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Immune modifiers, such as azathioprine and 6-MP
  • Aminosalicylates, such as 5-ASA
  • Biologic therapy

While medication is valuable in treating these conditions, those diagnosed with either disease can take charge of their health by making changes to their existing lifestyle.

Changes in diet, regular exercise, quitting smoking, and stress management can play a significant role in reducing flare-ups. It’s also important to keep a regular schedule of check-ups, even if symptoms start to ease up.

Even though there is no cure for Crohn’s or colitis, patients and their families are encouraged to take action to improve their health. Lifestyle changes can not only reduce physical suffering but also allows one to feel like they have more control over their health and the disease than they once thought.

About Dr. Graham Gibb:

Dr. Graham Gibb has been a practicing surgeon for 18 years. He received specialized training in colorectal surgery from the University of Texas and completed his postgraduate work in general surgery in Calgary, Alberta. When he can get away from the hospital, Dr. Gibb loves taking advantage of his new pilot’s license and take in the beautiful scenery in Peterborough, Ontario.

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