Guide to Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Affecting hundreds of thousands of people, and threatening the lives of many, inflammatory bowel diseases can be debilitating. Although there are currently no cure for such diseases, researchers and scientists continue to search for more advanced treatments. Meanwhile, many advocacy organizations battle to raise awareness, while others adopt new ways of living with these gastrointestinal diseases.
Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can be debilitating and potentially life-threatening. Primarily affecting the intestines, Crohn’s disease results in consistent inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Any portion of the gastrointestinal tract may be affected by the disease. The inflammation can result in diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Some symptoms of Crohn’s disease are varied, though most are related to the digestion system. Further complications may also include skin rashes, bowel obstruction, swollen joints, the development of fistulas, and nutritional deficiency. Due to the variety of affected portions of the gastrointestinal tract, there are multiple manifestations of Crohn’s disease. Primary symptoms include: loss of appetite, weight loss, problems related to passing stool, persistent diarrhea, fever and fatigue. Symptoms experienced as well as type of Crohn’s disease developed is dependent upon genetics and environment.
Similar to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. Specific to the colon and rectum, ulcerative colitis is marked by the presence of open sores. A very serious (sometimes life-threatening) disease, symptoms experienced are often similar to those of Crohn’s disease. Primary symptoms include: diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fatigue, issues related to nutrition, and external physical indicators such as sores. Resulting in many gastrointestinal issues, ulcerative colitis is not curable, though its symptoms can be lessened.
There are many tests that can be done in order to determine the presence of IBD’s such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Checking for some of the symptoms listed above (such as rash, or swollen joints), doctors may be able to diagnose IBDs during a physical examination. Other common tests include imaging techniques such as computer tomography scans (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). CT scans, or MRIs will alert health professionals to any irregularities detected in imaging. Operations such as colonoscopy or endoscopy can also provide evidence of IBDs. Colonoscopy is a procedure that includes internal examination of the colon and rectum. Potentially examining the entire length of the colon, this procedure uses a small camera that has been attached to a flexible tube. Providing imaging of the large intestine, health professionals can assess intestinal integrity. This method provides strong evidence regarding the condition of your intestinal tissues, and could indicate many irregularities or potential health concerns. Typically, these tests are conducted together with a stool sample in order to ensure diagnostic accuracy.
Providing background information and further explaining the symptoms, treatments, surgeries, and tools for combating inflammatory bowel diseases, these resources are especially helpful for building a fundamental understanding of the topic. The following resources are organized and facilitated primarily by health professionals, medical researchers, and government organizations.
- CDC IBD The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosts this website about inflammatory bowel diseases. Discussing Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and the epidemiology of IBDs this website provides some helpful background information on the topic.
- The Mind-Body Digestive Center Run by health professionals, the Mind-Body Digestive Center provides original research on the subject of IBDs. Focused especially on irritable bowel syndrome, this website hosts articles that explore many facets of digestive disorders and diseases.
- Medline Plus: Ulcerative colitis A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus provides an overview of ulcerative colitis. Also available here are links to symptoms, diagnosis, research, coping strategies, glossaries, and audience specific sections.
- Medline Plus: Crohn’s disease Also available through the Medline Plus, this overview of Crohn’s disease provides many significant resources. Find treatments that may help limit symptoms including alternative therapies, read lifestyle guides found on other websites, or research related medical issues.
- PubMed Health Another resource made available by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, PubMed hosts this article that provides this more in depth overview of Crohn’s disease. Here you can find more detailed information regarding symptoms, treatments, and lifestyle changes. Also hosted by PubMed Health is this resource for ulcerative colitis.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse The NDDIC is an informational service provided by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) dedicated to raising knowledge about digestive diseases. Made for those who suffer from such conditions, families of those affected, health care professionals, and the general public, this service is dedicated to providing information on all aspects of digestive diseases.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases The NIDDK is an institution dedicated to furthering medical knowledge and treatment of endocrine, metabolic and digestive diseases. A major contributor to scientific knowledge regarding digestion and diseases of the digestive system, the NIDDK continues to make progress in the fight against IBDs.
Responsible for educating people about the existence of inflammatory bowel diseases and the need for a more advanced understanding of these diseases, advocacy groups play an important role in the community. Furthermore, these organizations are devoted to improving the lives of people suffering from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Advocacy groups work to educate the families and friends of those directly affected about these diseases as well. Providing a number of helpful services for individuals, these groups also work to ensure the rights of patients.
- Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illnesses A legal consulting website that offers help to individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses, Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illnesses, Inc. has fought for the rights of patients. Founded by a trial lawyer who suffered from Crohn’s disease, this organization works to gain insurance for those who need it, while addressing larger policy issues.
- Growing Up IBD Specifically directed towards children, Growing Up IBD, works to make the effects of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis known. Having a severe impact on the development of children, IBD’s pose even greater risks to younger individuals.
- The Oley Foundation The Oley Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information and social support for those who use home parenteral and enteral nutrition. Hosting many tools for those on home nutrition systems, Oley wishes to help affected individuals live more comfortably, while educating consumer’s families and clinicians about important related topics.
- IBD Quilt Project Raising awareness for IBD’s through the creation of quilts this organization also provides a creative outlet for sufferers of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Assembled through a collaborative effort, the quilts produced by this organization symbolize the united struggle for health undergone by those affected by the diseases.
- Get Your Guts in Gear A series of three day bicycling rides, Get Your Guts in Gear provides individuals with the opportunity to come together as a community while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Providing support for individuals who are affected, this organization hosts events in the Hudson River Valley, the Pacific Northwest, and the Midwest.
- United Ostomy Associations of America UOAA is a national network devoted to providing support to sufferers of bowel and urinary diversion. Dedicated to making information easily available, ensuring a high quality of life and strengthening support groups, UOAA is interested in the advancement of support systems available to affected individuals.
- Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of American The CCFA is a volunteer oriented organization that works to find the cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Further, this organization is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those affected by IBDs while uniting the research community.
- Crohn’s and Colitis UK A United Kingdom based organization, Crohn’s and Colitis UK is dedicated to providing information related to IBDs to the public. Also available at this website is a network of support groups available for anyone seeking help.
Research and Medical Institutions
Dedicated to furthering scientific knowledge, these research and medical institutions enhance the lives of individuals affected by inflammatory bowel diseases. Both, theoretical research and the practical application of medical research result in more advanced procedures and a greater understanding of diseases. Consisting of national organizations for Gastroenterology, leading universities, and clinics, these institutions contribute greatly to our understanding. By examining how digestive diseases operate and disseminating valuable information regarding how to treat afflictions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, these institutions are responsible for providing the groundwork necessary for medical development.
- The American College of Gastroenterology Created by digestive disease specialists, this organization of medical professionals is interested in maintaining the highest possible quality of health care to patients with digestive diseases. Providing access to Frequently Asked Questions guides, general information on gastrointestinal health, and guides that explain what patients should know about common medical procedures related to digestive issues.
- American Gastroenterological Association Aimed towards health professionals, the American Gastroenterological Association website provides access to ongoing and recent research as well as important publications and journals in the field of Gastroenterology. Dedicated to enhancing education regarding Gastroenterology and advocacy in the community, the AGA works tirelessly to support researchers, clinicians, and sufferers of IBD in meaningful ways.
- American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition An organization dedicated to helping professionals advance nutrition support systems, ASPEN is one of the leading communities related to issues of nutritional dysfunctions. An extensive searchable archive of documents regarding nutritional support is made available to users of the website as well.
- Columbia University Department of Medicine Digestive and Liver Diseases This nationally prominent division of Columbia’s Department of Medicine is a leading establishment in the research of digestive diseases. Also interested in applying research to patient care, the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases is a leading institution dedicated to contributing to the practice of gastroenterology and hepatology.
- Shafran Gastrointestinal Center The Shafran Gastrointestinal Center provides information for patients and health care professionals alike. This medical center hosts specific sections on both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis as well as other gastrointestinal diseases.
Living with conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be challenging, and often requires special consideration. Promoting a healthy lifestyle that works around these constraints can be the key to enjoying a more comfortable life. Due to the physical and psychological effects of IBDs, maintaining good nutrition is especially difficult for many. By utilizing some select supplements, and following a healthy diet, the effects of IBDs can be lessened. Additionally, social and psychological support from others experiencing similar problems can be invaluable in coping with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- IBS Group An organization dedicated to providing support groups for people affected by IBS and other IBDs including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This website also hosts forums where people can discuss important matters related to living with IBDs, or reach out for support.
- IBD Answers IBD Answers is a community based website that provides current events related to all aspects of IBDs including research, events, and individual accounts of issues related to IBDs. Also available are articles discussing lifestyle advice written by affected individuals.
- Crohn’s Forum An entirely community based website, Crohn’s Forum provides a place for those affected by IBDs to bond and discuss any issue. Subforums are provided for General Discussion, Support, Multimedia and Books, Treatment, and Lifestyle.
- Crohn’s Disease and Stress A website aimed at sufferers of IBDs, Crohn’s Disease and Stress provides valuable information regarding lifestyle. Among topics covered are common symptoms of Crohn’s disease, avenues for treatment, and how to deal with Crohn’s disease in general.
- HealingWell.com Providing a Crohn’s disease blog, recent developments on the disease, articles related to IBDs and an active forums section, Healing Well is a well rounded community website that has much to offer. Additionally, you can find important books on the subject and purchase apparel that contributes to raising the awareness of IBDs.
- HealingWell.com Bookstore The popular community website HealingWell.com has its own bookstore that provides helpful texts on subjects related to IBDs. This specialized bookstore includes many guides, workbooks, and even novels on the subject.
- Elizabeth’s Healthy Cooking A cookbook made specifically for people who have special health conditions, Elizabeth’s Healthy Cooking includes a food journal and nutritional information. By actively tracking food intake and being mindful of what you are eating, tools such as this can be helpful in establishing healthy eating habits.
- Crohn’s Disease Diet This informational article explains nutritional supplements, and types of food that may be most helpful for recovery. Due to the nature of these diseases, sufferers experience unique problems with nutrition, this website is aimed at countering these challenges by making some suggestions regarding supplements.