• Gastroenterology

    Consumer Health: Living with Crohn’s disease and colitis

a young man sitting on a couch in agony and pain, holding is stomach because of digestive problems or stomach ache

Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week will be observed Dec. 1–7, which makes this a good time to learn about living with these disorders.

Researchers estimate that more than half a million people in the U.S. have Crohn’s disease, and 600,000 to 900,000 people in the U.S. have ulcerative colitis, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. Inflammatory bowel disease can be debilitating and sometimes leads to life-threatening complications. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are two types of inflammatory bowel disease.

Crohn's disease is characterized by inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which often spreads deep into affected tissues. Ulcerative colitis causes long-lasting inflammation and sores in the innermost lining of your large intestine and rectum.

Both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis usually cause severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. The symptoms of Crohn's disease and colitis don't just affect you physically, though. They take an emotional toll, as well.

If signs and symptoms are severe, your life may revolve around a constant need to run to the toilet. Even if your symptoms are mild, it can be difficult to be out in public. These concerns can alter your life and lead to depression.

If you're living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, here are some things you can do to cope:

  • Be informed.
    One of the best ways to be more in control is to learn as much as possible about inflammatory bowel disease. Look for information from reputable sources such as the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation.
  • Join a support group.
    Although support groups aren't for everyone, they can provide valuable information about your condition and emotional support.
  • Talk to a therapist.
    Some people find it helpful to consult a mental health professional who's familiar with inflammatory bowel disease and the emotional difficulties it can cause.

Connect with others talking about Crohn's disease and colitis in the Digestive Health support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.

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