World IBD Day is May 19th – Check it out!
10th May 2023
“When it comes to diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease, also known as IBD, some people can endure symptoms for years before a diagnosis is made. It really doesn’t have to be this way. The most important thing is that people, regardless of age, should not ignore any new digestive symptom,” says Prof. Barbara Ryan, consultant gastroenterologist, clinical professor with Trinity College Dublin, and co-founder of @thegutexperts.
Ahead of World IBD Day on Friday May 19, and against this backdrop of delayed diagnosis, Crohn’s and Colitis Ireland has launched a new Symptom Checker (www.crohnscolitis.ie/symptomchecker). The tool forms part of its “Poo Taboo” campaign which aims to lift the lid on some of the stigma around IBD symptoms and the importance of people not being too shy to get checked out.
IBD covers a number of conditions in which the digestive tract becomes inflamed, swollen and ulcerated – the two most common conditions being Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. It is thought that at least 40,000 people are living with IBD in Ireland, with most being diagnosed between 15 and 35 years, and then later in life, between 50 and 70 years. However, Crohn’s and Colitis Ireland believes that many more people remain undiagnosed.
While ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine only, Crohn’s disease can occur anywhere along the digestive tract, and the inflammation can be much deeper, even perforating the bowel. Common symptoms include diarrhoea or loose stools, bleeding from the bottom, fever, fatigue, anaemia, weight loss, cramps and abdominal pain. With ulcerative colitis, there can also be a feeling of being unable to completely empty the bowel.
“I have known from my own clinical practice for some time that too many people delay getting seen to. They may put off getting checked out and having their symptoms investigated, or sometimes IBD, particularly Crohn’s disease, can be difficult to diagnose. For others, the path to diagnosis is much smoother and quicker, once they start to undergo investigation. Thankfully, once the diagnosis is made, we now have an excellent and ever-expanding array of treatments available, and people can experience a rapid improvement in symptoms,” Prof. Barbara Ryan said.
“While the results of the recent survey undertaken on behalf of Crohn’s and Colitis Ireland are not surprising to me, they are nonetheless still very concerning. It found that while four in ten would go to see a doctor immediately if they saw blood in the toilet bowl, an equal number would delay getting seen to,” she added.
“We want people to stop ignoring the key signs of what can be a serious disease, to overcome any embarrassment that they may have, and to seek medical advice.
With our newly-developed symptom checker, people can, in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, answer a series of questions. In less than a minute, they will know if they need to see a GP for further examination,” Professor Ryan concluded.
The symptom checker asks questions such as: whether an individual has seen blood in their poo more than once; if symptoms are present such as diarrhoea, needing to have a poo urgently or waking up in the night to poo; and whether a person is experiencing unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, fatigue and fissures that don’t heal, or abscesses that keep coming back. Based on the results, they will then receive advice as to next steps.
Our Survey Says…
The survey to determine awareness of IBD among the population was conducted by Amárach research in March of this year. It found that:
•Awareness: most people (94%) have heard of IBD, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Specifically, 79% had heard of Crohn’s disease while 43% had heard of ulcerative colitis.
•Symptoms: most also had a knowledge of some of the symptoms with four in five (83%) able to identify cramps or abdominal pain, 79% diarrhoea or loose stools, 70% blood in stool/toilet bowl/toilet paper, and 67% a feeling of being unable to completely empty the bowel.
•Taking action: however, when it came to acting on symptoms, two in five (40%) would do nothing or adopt a “wait-and-see” approach. This includes 5% of the overall sample who would be too embarrassed to seek advice, hoping that the symptoms would go away. One in ten (9%) would consult “Dr Google” before deciding what to do, while 7% would seek advice from a family member or trusted friend before deciding next steps. Of the overall sample, less than half (41%) would immediately seek advice from a GP or healthcare professional.
For more information on IBD, and the services provided by Crohn’s and Colitis Ireland, call the Support Line on 01 5312983 (Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9.30am to 12.30pm), or check out www.crohnscolitis.ie