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Raising Awareness of Crohn's and Colitis

About 70,000 new cases of inflammatory bowel disease are diagnosed in the United States each year.(cdc.gov)
About 70,000 new cases of inflammatory bowel disease are diagnosed in the United States each year.(cdc.gov)
December 5, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- This week is Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week, organized to increase understanding of what is often called the "invisible disease,” but for the thousands of people who have Crohn's or colitis in Maryland, it is anything but.

Crohn’s and colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases that cause pain, weight loss, exhaustion and other symptoms that are not curable. Jordan Sorrells has had Chrohn's for 20 years and he said it's not always easy to educate people 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. It's not polite dinner conversation,” Sorrels said. "Things that I've had to deal with over the years, the main things I deal with, are fatigue and weight loss, and they just depend on my stress level and everything that's going on."

The causes of Crohn's disease or colitis are not well understood, but diet and stress are known to aggravate symptoms. Those symptoms include abdominal cramps, fever, weight loss, night sweats, persistent diarrhea and rectal bleeding.

According to Christina Humble, executive director at the Carolina chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, it's likely you know someone who has an inflammatory bowel disease 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,” Humble explained.

If you think you have symptoms of IBD, Sorrels said, 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,” he said. "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, and as many as 80,000 children are living with the condition.

For more information on Crohn's and colitis, visit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America's website at ccfa.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD