If someone in your life has Crohn’s disease, you might be curious about what exactly this condition is and what kind of problems that it brings. But you might be nervous about bringing the subject up or talking about it with your friend or loved one. This article serves as a guide to Crohn’s disease and the things you should remember if someone in your life has this difficult condition.
They deal with a lot of pain
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation and can affect any area of the digestive tract–most commonly the small and large intestines. This inflammation causes sometimes severe abdominal pain that can be difficult to control, especially during the flare-up. If the pain is chronic, it can interfere with general activities of daily living.
They have other digestive symptoms as well
Apart from abdominal pain, people with this condition can have other digestive problems as well. They will frequently suffer from diarrhea or constipation, abdominal cramping and bloating, and bleeding from the rectum. They will sometimes also develop fistulas, usually around the rectal area.
They might have a very restricted diet
While everyone with Crohn’s disease is different, there are some foods which researchers suspect can make the problem worse. Many people with this condition find that a low dairy, low fat and low residue diet are the most helpful for managing digestive problems. So don’t be offended if they don’t want to go out for pizza; it is probably not on the list of things that they can eat.
They often need supplements
Because their diet can be so restrictive, sometimes people with Crohn’s disease do not get enough nutrients in their diet. They will often have to also take oral supplements, like those for calcium, vitamin D or iron. They might also get shots, like B-12 injections, in order to make up for this deficit. In extreme cases, if they are not able to get enough food down, they will have to be fed through a g-tube or through an IV.
They can get infections easily
Sometimes, in order to control their condition, people with Crohn’s disease have to be given special medications like Imuran, which suppress their immune system. While Imuran can help those with Chrohn’s, it also means that the person’s body is less able to fight off infections–and this can make it a lot easier to get sick.
They have to deal with severe side effects from medications
Apart from lowering their immunity, there are other side effects from medications that can make life difficult for those with this condition. Azulifidine, for example, is a common treatment but its side effects can include nausea with vomiting and diarrhea, as well as heartburn and headaches. Steroid treatment is also common to reduce inflammation, but it can cause problems like swelling of the face and hands, water weight and general weight gain and insomnia, just to name a few.
They might require surgery
In about half of all cases, Crohn’s disease becomes severe enough that surgery is required to remove the affected part of the digestive tract, such as a portion of the intestines. However, this usually only brings temporary relief and often the disease will occur again.
They might need help to manage stress
While stress does not cause Crohn’s disease, it can make it worse. Learning stress relief techniques like deep breathing exercises or meditation can help them manage their day to day stress and hopefully help prevent a flare-up.
They might use complementary therapies
Many people with Crohn’s disease also turn to complementary or alternative medicines to help with day-to-day management of their condition. This can include supplements like probiotics or fish oil, or even techniques like acupuncture, which have been shown to help control several disease symptoms.
They have more treatment options than in the past
One positive thing about this condition is that there are more treatment options for it than in the past. Research is underway with techniques, like stem cell treatments and fecal transplants, that might help to greatly improve the lives of those with Crohn’s disease.
They still have sexual needs
Just like anyone else, people with Crohn’s Disease have sexual desires and feelings. However, because of pain and digestive problems like diarrhea, this disease can make sex more of a challenge. With good communication and a willingness to experiment with different positions and techniques, a satisfying sex life is still possible.
They need emotional support
Because of the challenges that people with Crohn’s disease can face in everyday life, emotional support of family and friends is vital. Just being there for them and letting them know that you want to help can make a huge difference!
In short, this is not an easy condition to live with. Simple things like eating, going to the bathroom, being intimate with someone, or even just being free of pain can present huge obstacles for people with Crohn’s disease. Again, simply having the support of family and friends can help with an overall positive attitude and emotional health even in the face of these challenges.