What is Crohn’s? / What is a Stoma?

Crohn’s disease is…….. one of the main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), alongside ulcerative colitis (UC).

It is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract, believed to be linked to an abnormal immune system response, and can affect anywhere from the mouth to the anus (and jump in between). Crohn’s and UC have very similar symptoms, but UC is limited to the large intestine.

The CAUSES of IBD are not well known or understood. There are several theories, but none have been proven. Contributing factors may include genetics, environment, diet and stress. More research is needed.

Symptoms vary from person to person and may include but are not limited to: abdominal pain, diarrhoea and bloody/mucus stools, urgency and frequency to go to the toilet, fatigue, weight loss, change in appetite, anemia, and anal fissures.

Treatments aim to control symptoms and bring the disease into “remission”. Medications vary depending on severity and stage of the disease, and where in the GI tract the inflammation is located. Medications may include antibiotics, corticosteroids, aminosalicylates, immunomodulators and biological agents. Suppositories and enemas may also be used as a form of treatment.

Who is at risk? IBD is more common in developed nations such as countries in Europe, America and Australia (compared to Africa or Asia), but the incidence of IBD is growing and becoming more prevalent globally. It tends to occur in younger people aged from 15-35 (but can be diagnosed at any age). It is thought that having a family history and smoking cigarettes may be an increased risk factor.

People with an IBD will generally go between periods of remission and active disease, and can sometimes go for years without a flare, however it is a chronic, ongoing condition for which there is currently no known cure.

A Stoma is basically an opening or hole in your abdominal wall that the surgeon creates after removing or diverting part of your diseased bowel. Your intestine is rerouted so that your poo can exit the body through this stoma into a nifty little bag which sticks to your skin and you can then empty or change regularly.

An operation connecting the colon (part of the large intestine/bowel) to the abdominal wall is known as a colostomy. An operation connecting the last part of your small intestine (ileum) to the abdominal wall is known as an ileostomy.

I have had my entire large intestine (which includes the rectum) and anus removed (a pan proctocolectomy), so all I have left is my small intestine, and a permanent end ileostomy. And a fantastic life!

This information is based on my own understanding of IBD as well as sourced from many helpful websites, such as Crohn’s & Colitis Australia (https://www.crohnsandcolitis.com.au/). Remember, I am NOT a doctor or a nurse. There are Crohn’s and Colitis foundations all over the world who are a wealth of excellent information. If you are unsure, please seek professional advice or visit your doctor.