Crohn’s Disease and Those Living with it a Personal Perspective

Crohn’s Disease and Those Living with it

I am a person living with Crohn’s Disease. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2007 and since then, people have asked me many different questions about the disease. Please note before reading this article, I am not a doctor, nurse, specialist, or expert of any kind. I am simply someone who has done a ton of research on this subject since being diagnosed. When I found out I had Crohn’s, there was not a lot of information available nor was my doctor at the time much help. If any of these symptoms are something you are experiencing, seek help from a physician.
What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease, also known as granulomatous enteritis and colitis, is an inflammatory disease of the intestines that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, causing a wide variety of symptoms. It primarily causes abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is at its worst), vomiting, or weight loss, but may also cause complications outside of the GI Tract, such as fever, lack of concentration, arthritis, fatigue, inflammation of the eye, and skin rashes. It can lead to further complications later on as well, such as kidney stones, gallstones, or other diseases of the liver and biliary system.

There are several theories that exist about what causes Crohn’s disease, but none of these have been proven. Our immune system is made up of cells and different proteins that protect us from infection. The most popular theory is that the body’s immune system reacts abnormally in those living with Crohn’s disease, mistaking bacteria, foods, and other substances for being foreign. The immune system’s response is to attack these foreign objects. And during this, white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the intestines, producing chronic inflammation, which leads to ulcerations and bowel injury. Those with Crohn’s disease will have inflammation and swelling in affected areas of the bowel and ulcers may form. These are raw areas of the bowel lining which can bleed. The bowel wall will be thickened and this may cause blockages.

How is it Diagnosed?

Because Crohn’s Symptoms are similar to irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, it can be difficult to diagnose. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the top layer of the lining of the large intestine. In Crohn’s disease, all layers of the intestine may be involved, and normal healthy bowel can be found between sections of diseased bowel.

A thorough physical exam and series of tests are often used to diagnose this disease. Blood work to check for anemia is normally checked. And stool samples may be done as well. The blood test can tell them whether or not there is an infection in the body, and the stool sample would tell them if there is an infection or bleeding in the intestines. You may also have a series of tests on the upper GI tract using a barium drink and x-rays, a colonoscopy, or a sigmoidoscopy.

Is there a cure?

There is no known cure for Crohn’s Disease. Some have long periods of remission when they are free of symptoms, but it is a chronic disease that is very unpredictable and will recur at random times over a person’s lifespan. Predicting when remission will happen is not possible. Treatment for Crohn’s Disease may include one or a combination of medication, nutritional supplements, and surgery. These treatments are used to help relieve the symptoms of the disease as well as controlling the inflammation and nutrition deficiencies. The treatments can also help in lowering the times the disease recurs.

Famous Athletes Living with Crohn’s, IBD, and Ulcerative Colitis
Theoren Fleury was picked 188th in the 1987 National Hockey League draft. In the 1998-99 season, he scored 53 assists, the six highest number of assists in the league. He placed seventh in the league for goals and points, with 40 and 93, respectively. He was acquired as a free agent by the Rangers in July, 1999. At 5 foot 6 inches tall, he has become a role model for hockey players under 6 feet tall (considered to be the standard size for the NHL). Theo is known for his fiestiness on the ice, and his determination. Diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1996, he has been determined not to let the disease rule his life. Theo Fleury said: “When you live in a hotel and travel from place to place keeping a close eye on what you eat and always remembering to take your medication is a hard task. But Crohn’s Disease is something that I have come to terms with and have adjusted my lifestyle accordingly.”

David Garrard-The Jacksonville Jaguars quaterback was born in 1978. Garrard, a third-year veteran who played college ball at East Carolina, started feeling sick in January 2004. After a battery of tests, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s on March 23. He has since lost about 10 pounds. Last week, medicine he had been taking to combat the illness lost effectiveness and he had be hospitalized. He opted against surgery to alleviate the blockage and instead went on a relatively new medicine, Remicade, that removes a type of protein from the bloodstream that can cause the inflammation. Doctors have assured Garrard that playing football won’t put him at any risk because of the disease. “It’s going to do whatever it’s going to do on its own,” Garrard said. “Football isn’t going to bring it back or keep it away.” Garrard conceded he was scared before he knew what was wrong. Now, however, he’s looking at the bright side: He’s eating better, has lost weight and is happy because the illness isn’t as serious as it could have been. “It’s bigger than football,” he said. “It’s just how I’m going to be from now on.”

Joe Rogan – UFC Commentator, American comedian and actor suffers from Crohn’s disease. Joe was the host of the successful reality television series Fear Factor and a regular on the sitcom News Radio. Joe still enjoys success headlining comedy clubs.

Al Geiberger is an accomplished professional golfer who has won 11 PGA tour events, 10 senior tour events, and 8 super senior (for golfers 60 and older) competitions. He is also the father of Brent Geiberger, a PGA Tour pro. Al started the Mr. 59 tournament for charity, with proceeds going to Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and Desert Junior Golf’s Matthew Geiberger Scholarship Fund. The tournament is named for his famous round of 13-under 59 in the 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. It was the first sub-60 round in PGA history. Due to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Al had surgery to remove his colon in 1980, and now has an ileostomy. He credits Rolf Benirschke as an inspiration to him in overcoming his illness. “I saw him and said ‘If he can go play football, then I can play golf”. “You have to remember that 15 years ago if you had something like this, no one talked about it,” Geiberger said. “Now people are familiar with intestinal diseases and what can happen for them.”

Chris Gedney a former NFL player. Chris was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in September of 1995. Unfortunately, his case turned out to be uncommonly severe, and doctors subsequently found that Chris’s colon was perforated in addition to being inflamed. Surgery-with all its potential complications-was actually the best option, so his colon was removed in July of 1999. The first weeks of recovery were truly debilitating. Chris was so weak following the operation that he could barely stand up straight. Things would get even more difficult. In August of 1999, he faced the prospect of additional surgery to regain normal gastrointestinal function. After all he came back to play one more year for the Arizona Cardinals: “I don’t plan on coming back and playing the way I did before,” he said prior to the 2000 season. “I will come back playing better. Since his operation, Chris has become a national spokesman for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

(The information for the above athletes can be found at http://crohn-colitis.hu/eng/famous-people-with-ibd.php)

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