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Fast Facts About Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease

IBD FAQs

Whether you have IBD, or you have a loved one who does, it’s common to have some questions about the disease.

Common Questions from People with UC and CD

Will someone who has ulcerative colitis (UC) or Crohn’s disease (CD) always have to be on treatment to manage the symptoms?

There is great importance and value in having an ongoing and open dialogue with a healthcare provider to help ensure the disease and symptom management plan is most appropriate for him or her. And patients should feel comfortable speaking up and speaking out, playing an active role in advocating for their health and needs.

Why do symptoms flare up when they do?

UC and CD symptoms may evolve over time, including either dissipating or flaring up for no obvious reason, but some possible triggers have been identified that may impact symptoms, including: some medications not working, stress, eating certain foods, and smoking.

Coping with symptoms associated with UC or CD can be both physically and mentally challenging. That’s why having an ongoing and open dialogue with a healthcare provider is so important in identifying the best way to help manage and treat the symptoms and disease, which includes patients sharing as much detail as possible about personal experiences.

What else can be done to manage UC or CD?

UC and CD both require a personalized, individual treatment approach. Neither UC nor CD is a “one-size-fits-all” disease – everyone impacted has a different experience – which is why people living with UC or CD can best help themselves by paying close attention to how they feel and being open to discussing everything in detail with a healthcare provider.

Are there support groups for people with UC or CD? How about for loved ones/families?

Support is a key component to helping both people living with IBD, as well as their loved ones. Support may take on many different forms, depending on what an individual needs or prefers; it may include close friends or family, a trusted healthcare professional, or talking with others impacted by IBD. To find in-person or virtual support communities, contact a local advocacy organization for more information.

Do you have any advice for how I can tell others what I’m going through, without sharing too many details?

The best and often easiest place to start is by finding someone you’re comfortable with and trust, be it a family member or friend, as it may feel easier to open up to and share details about your experience with them. You are in control of how much and what you want to share – be it simply informing someone you have IBD and perhaps explaining what that means, to sharing more about your personal experience – but no matter what, you should feel confident in unmasking your UC or CD to your friends, families, and most importantly, yourself.

How can I tell if my IBD is truly under control?

Symptoms, blood and stool tests are good indicators of whether or not your IBD is under control. An endoscopy and radiology can also serve as methods of investigation. Overall, it all comes down to how you’re feeling. If you find yourself more and more actively planning your daily activities based on your symptoms, it may be beneficial to talk with your healthcare provider. Share everything you’re experiencing – physically and emotionally – and don’t be afraid to ask if you can be doing better. There are multiple ways to manage the disease, so work with a healthcare provider to find a treatment plan that works for you.

General Questions About IBD

Is there a cure for IBD?

Although IBD is a chronic disease, with UC or CD the two most common types, there are many ways to help manage symptoms and the disease. If you have or think you may have IBD, speak with a healthcare provider about what you’re experiencing, and the two of you can identify the best approach to confirm diagnosis and disease management, as appropriate.

Is IBD genetic or hereditary?

While there is no known cause for IBD (including CD and UC, the two most common types), many researchers believe that the interaction between genes, the body’s immune system, the microorganisms that live on our bodies, and environmental factors may play a role.

Is IBD common?

IBD is not uncommon, with more than five million people worldwide affected by IBD.

How are UC and CD managed?

It’s especially important for people living with UC or CD to have an ongoing and open conversation with their healthcare provider about what they’re experiencing in order to find the disease management plan that’s best suited for them.

I know someone with IBD – what’s the best way I can help support them?

For people living with IBD, having loved ones who care enough to be involved and be part of their support system can be invaluable.

Living with a chronic disease like IBD may be challenging, isolating, mentally and physically exhausting, and embarrassing to discuss. That’s why having the support and understanding of family and friends is extremely important.

Sometimes simply letting friends and family know you are there to help in whatever way they need – perhaps to vent, to talk through a challenge, to help out in other ways when they aren’t feeling well, or any other number of things – is the first step. While some people living with IBD are forthcoming about their disease, others may feel reluctant to speak up – so it’s okay to offer a gentle reminder once in a while that you’re there for them.

Are IBD and IBS the same thing?

While both IBD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affect the gastrointestinal or digestive tract, the two are very different conditions.

UC and CD are the two most common types of IBD, and are chronic diseases marked by inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. UC impacts the large intestine, which includes the colon and the rectum, while CD can impact any part of the digestive tract, and predominantly affects the ileum.

IBS is a disorder characterized most commonly by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not harm the intestines and does not lead to other health problems.

It is important for any person experiencing gastrointestinal distress to discuss their symptoms with a healthcare provider to receive a diagnosis and proper treatment.

Someone I know has IBD. What should I ask or say to them? What should I not say?

For individuals living with IBD, the support of family and friends can offer a very powerful source of strength and confidence. The best thing you can do is simply let them know you are there for them in whatever capacity they may need. If you aren’t sure how to help but want to do something, ask – or offer another gentle reminder that you are there to offer support.

For what not to do, avoid judging, criticizing or belittling what this person is going through. IBD can be very physically and emotionally challenging, and people living with it need positive, empowering, understanding and encouraging support – not the opposite.

Management of UC and CD

In order to determine the best disease management plan to fit your individual needs, the first and most important step is to have a conversation with your trusted healthcare team.

It is important for patients to feel CONFIDENT and EMPOWERED to take an ACTIVE ROLE in managing their diseases and have ongoing and open conversations with their healthcare providers about what they’re experiencing in order to find the right treatment plan that’s best for them.

Living with a chronic disease like IBD may be challenging and isolating. For people living with IBD, having loved ones who care enough to be involved and be part of their support system can be invaluable.

DISCLAIMER

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The content on IBDunmasked.com is not, nor is it intended to be, medical consultations, diagnoses, or treatment recommendations. The content on this site is not intended to replace guidance from your healthcare providers. Always consult your healthcare providers for all medical- and health-related matters.