The FINANCIAL — People with Crohn’s disease (CD) can suffer debilitating symptoms as well as depression which can have a major impact on their lives and the lives of those around them.
CD is an autoimmune disease – a condition which results in an overactive immune response against substances that are normally present in the body.
The body is effectively turning its defence systems on itself. It produces too much of a protein called tumour necrosis factor (TNF), among other cytokines, which triggers inflammation of the digestive tract causing severe discomfort.
These ‘flare-ups’ can result in diarrhoea, fever, nausea, abdominal pain and severe weight loss. For some people this means spending a lot of time at home, partly because their homes have a convenient bathroom and access to foods which will not exacerbate symptoms.
The disease usually starts between the ages of 15 and 35, a time when individuals make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, such as starting college, beginning a career or embarking on new relationships.
CD limits a sufferer’s ability to do the things that other people their age take for granted. It gets in the way of normal life.
The causes of CD are not yet clear but a number of genetic and environmental factors have been implicated. The precise way in which these factors interact to cause CD remains the subject of research.
Many scientists now believe that the interaction of an outside agent, a bacterium or virus, with the immune system may trigger an attack on the lining of the intestines, causing chronic inflammation and ultimately ulcerations and bowel injury. Genetics also appear to play a role: in 20-25% of cases the disease runs in the family.
As there is currently no cure for CD, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and providing emotional support.
UCB supports people with CD in keeping track of their how they feel day-to-day using the Wellness Widget™, a free interactive desktop and mobile phone application that enables the patient to record their daily symptoms and any other important information.
Patients can report the data to their doctors and use the widget to remind themselves of doctor visits, prescription refills or medication doses.
We also want to provide Crohn’s sufferers with information about their condition, and help them to understand that they are not alone in dealing with the symptoms. That’s why we sponsor the Crohn’s & Me website which provides everything from advice on living with CD to video testimonies of other people with first-hand experience of the condition.
World Crohn’s Day is a timely reminder of the need to raise awareness of the disease and to continue to support those affected.