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It's Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Month

Pain, chronic suffering and isolation: the consequences of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are many. For the 233,000 Canadians who live with IBD, this condition is a daily struggle that has a considerable impact on their quality of life.

In Canada, over 10,200 new cases of IBD are diagnosed each year. At the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) we treat over 2,500 IBD patients annually. 

Crohn's diseaseIBD is a chronic disorder of the gut that is caused  by an abnormal immune reaction that triggers intestinal inflammation leading  to various symptoms.  Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis are the main disorders that make up IBD. To clearly understand IBD, we must first understand the anatomy and function of a healthy digestive tract. These diseases are often unpredictable: people with IBD have attacks (also called “flare-ups”), followed by periods of “remission” during which symptoms disappear. You need to consult a doctor if you suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Frequent abdominal pain and cramps that often get worse after meals;
  • Fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell;
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss, even with a balanced diet;
  • Blood  in your stool, sometimes in large quantities (rectal bleeding) ;
  • Frequent bowel movements, even during the night;
  • Mucus in your stool. (this mucus is thick and runny and has the consistency of egg whites);
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • A mild fever (38 ºC to 40 ºC);
  • Joint pain;

IBD generally appears at the start of adulthood in people who are normally active and healthy. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this disease. However, treatments and medications are available to help keep symptoms in remission. The majority of IBD patients will need to keep taking medication; if this treatment doesn't work, surgery may be necessary.

“The MUHC has taken great strides in managing IBD,” says Dr. Alain Bitton, MUHC director of the Division of Gastroenterology. “We are very excited about the creation of an IBD centre, which delivers the best possible care for our patients.” 

For more information about IBD symptoms, treatments and available support, you can visit the website of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada: http://www.ccfc.ca.