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Crohn's and Colitis: A Real Disease

Updated on November 17, 2019
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Angela was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis17. At 20, she had a colectomy, where they removed her colon.

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Looking back, when I was first was diagnosed, I did not take the words ulcerative colitis very seriously, nor did I have any idea what kind of implications these words would have on my life. I understood that I had a disease, and I was not in denial, but I always figured that I would be able to handle whatever came along. I assumed that no matter how sick I became, as long as I took medication, everything would be fine, and I would remain moderately healthy.

Maybe I had deluded myself because I had read somewhere that no one can die of ulcerative colitis. Technically speaking, people do not die of asthma; they die of asphyxiation. So, it may be true that you cannot die of ulcerative colitis. Still, you can die from malnutrition, toxic megacolon, and colon cancer. These are all very possible side effects of ulcerative colitis. With this knowledge, I wish I could tell my seventeen-year-old self that I should take the disease seriously.

Had you ever heard of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's before being diagnosed?

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The Symptoms Book

My family knows my love of the symptoms book my mom bought at a garage sale. I didn't start reading it until I started having symptoms of ulcerative colitis. The book has been a standing joke in my family, that I suffer from hypochondria because I often have used that book to help guide me in finding out what's wrong with me. Eight surgeries and several hospital visits later, no one thinks I suffer from this, but it would be something to keep us laughing as I was waiting for a doctor visit. Unlike a hypochondriac, I genuinely do suffer from physical ailments.

Books like this and the Internet have been my faithful companions through all my trials with ulcerative colitis. They allowed me to see that I wasn't alone in my experiences, and stress did not cause the disease. Despite all the help, I learned much more about the condition outside of the confines of a book.

Don't Just Accept What the Doctor Says

Countless people have shared with me stories of how they were misdiagnosed, then later discovered it was Crohn's or ulcerative colitis. The most common misdiagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome. If your instincts tell you that it is more than irritable bowel syndrome, request a colonoscopy, although a colonoscopy can be incorrect.

If you don't feel like your doctor is taking you seriously, switch doctors, or seek a second opinion. You know your body; trust your instincts. Too many people go undiagnosed for too long, and their symptoms become very severe. They spend way too long recovering or trying to get it under control, rather than getting it under control from the start.

Bottom line: It's not in your head. Don't let people convince you otherwise.

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It’s Not All in Your Head

Many people in the mid-twentieth century believed that IBDs were psychosomatic diseases, meaning that they were physical manifestations of a psychological problem. Even still today, many laypeople associate ulcerative colitis as an emotional problem. Countless times through my trials, people would give try to help me by telling me stress management techniques. I would think to myself; I am way more laid back and relaxed than you, why in the world would you possibly think I have stress management issues. IBD caused by stress has been proven untrue. I know in my life, some of my most peaceful times, I was sick, and some of my most stressful times, I remained relatively healthy.

Keep in mind that there is a connection between mental well-being and physical well-being. Mental or emotional problems do not cause ulcerative colitis and Crohn's or even the way you cope with stress. On the other hand, stress can aggravate an already existing case of the disease. Those who are under a lot of stress are more likely to have problems with their diabetes, asthma, arthritis; that doesn't mean the way they handle their stress caused it. Nor does it mean that how severe the person’s disease is how well they deal with stress. Much of it is due to their genetic make-up.

Sure Signs It's More Than Just Diarrhea

Part of the reason that people believe this disease is related to stress is that a relatively healthy person will experience diarrhea or an upset stomach before an interview, a hard exam, or other stressful situations. The difference with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's and nerves is it's more than just diarrhea. For one, there is a lot of pain associated with these diseases. Another is that they will see blood in the stool.

Hemorrhoids can cause blood, so do not assume just because blood is present that it is an IBD. If the only blood you see is on the toilet paper, then there is little concern. Also, even the smallest amount of blood can turn the whole bowl pink or red.

One difference, a vast difference is the amount of blood. Right before I had my colon removed, there were times when all I would have is blood with minimal amounts of stool. That's why it is so incredibly essential if you see blood, go to the doctors. If it's just hemorrhoids, don't be embarrassed, at least you'll get a cream to treat it.

The truth is, if you think it's more than just diarrhea, you need to go to the doctor. As I stated, it's not all in your head. Maybe it's just an infection or a bug, but if diarrhea lasts more than a few days, it is time to be seen. The earlier you get a check-up, the more efficient your treatment will be.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz

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