It’s called the “invisible disease,” but for thousands of people who have Crohn’s disease or colitis in Washington, they’ll tell you it is anything but. These are inflammatory bowel diseases that cause pain, weight loss, exhaustion and other symptoms that are not curable.
Jordan Sorrells has had Crohn’s for 20 years and said it’s not always easy to educate people around him on the disease because some of the symptoms are unpleasant to talk about.
“It’s definitely one of those diseases that people don’t want to talk about,” he said. “It’s not polite dinner conversation. Things that I’ve had to deal with over the years, the main things I deal with, are fatigue, weight loss, and they just depend on my stress level and everything that’s going on.”
This week is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week. The causes of Crohn’s disease or colitis are not well understood, but diet and stress are known to aggravate symptoms. Symptoms include persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps, fever, weight loss and night sweats.
Christina Humble, executive director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, said it’s likely you know someone who has an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and don’t even realize it.
“I think it’s just watching what you say, because things that they don’t like to hear is like, ‘Do you have an eating disorder?’ Or a lot of people think you don’t look sick, but you really are because it’s internal, it’s not outside,” she said.
Sorrells said if you think you have symptoms of IBD, it’s important to see your doctor, since treatments can help you live with the disease.
“Crohn’s and colitis have so many varying symptoms and they can change from person to person,” Sorrells added. “It’s so individualized that if you think you have any symptoms that relate to fatigue, weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, running to the bathroom, have upset stomach, if something seems off, just go see a doctor and ask questions.”
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, as many as 70,000 new cases of IBD are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, with as many as 80,000 children living with the condition.
Featured Photo: The causes of Crohn’s disease or colitis are not well understood, but diet and stress are known to aggravate symptoms. (COD Newsroom/Flickr)
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.