You just found out that your friend has Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune illness that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.
They now know the reason behind the abdominal pain, mouth sores, fatigue, diarrhea, and other symptoms they’ve been experiencing for a while.
You were also told it was a chronic condition. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease at present. Patients undergo different forms of treatment to find something that would best control the symptoms.
Like other chronic illnesses, Crohn’s can have a huge impact on a person’s life. It would be a great help for patients if their families and loved ones know more about what they are going through.
Below are some of the things to understand about Crohn’s disease:
1. Crohn’s is an invisible illness
The different symptoms of Crohn’s disease can severely affect a person’s day-to-day life. They could miss important activities like school and work when their symptoms are acting up. They need to make time for doctor’s appointments and find the right treatment. The medications they take can cause different side effects.
But since it is an invisible illness, other people couldn’t see the difficulties this disease is causing them. Because of this, patients tend to worry that the other people are doubting them. Afterall, they often hear comments like, “you look fine”. Even if they are well-meaning, comments like this don’t make the patients feel better.
It might be helpful if you could instead let them know that you are there for them if they need anything. This will not only assure them that you believe that their pain is real, it could also make them feel comfortable to reach out to you when necessary.
2. Symptoms can come at any time
One of the many challenges of having Crohn’s is that there’s no telling when their symptoms are coming back. Patients may be enjoying a symptom-free month and then wake up the next day feeling sick.
This can mean they would have to cancel on scheduled activities with you like going out to watch a movie. Understanding situations like this would really mean a lot for your friend. It would be even better if you could prepare contingency plans in advance like hanging out at their place instead.
3. Diet restrictions
Since Crohn’s affects the digestive tract, diet plays a big part in managing the symptoms.
The specific diet each person requires may vary and anyone who has Crohn’s disease needs to consult their doctor first before following a particular diet. What is certain, however, is that there are types of food that a Crohn’s patient needs to avoid.
It would be great to know what triggers their symptoms as well as the ones that should be in their diet. This would come in handy when you have to prepare food for them. Also, be more understanding in case they would prefer to bring their own food instead.
4. Missing out on fun activities
It is possible that your friend is missing out on a lot of fun activities because of their condition.
There might be times when their symptoms are flaring up and they have no choice but to stay at home while you’re on a trip or at a party with other common friends. But it is also possible for them to decline an invitation because of the different accommodations their condition requires.
Maybe they really want to be with you but they need to ensure the place offers the type of food suitable for them or that they have a decent toilet, just in case. They might even want to join you on a trip but they are worried that they would have to stay in the hotel if their symptoms act up. Then they would have to worry about the inconvenience it would cause everyone.
Understanding the different adjustments their condition requires can be really helpful for them when planning activities. Let them know that you’re willing to make adjustments and don’t consider them an inconvenience at all.
Living with a chronic illness like Crohn’s disease can definitely have a huge impact on a person’s life. But having supportive friends and loved ones can somehow ease some of the burdens from this disease. Learning more about Crohn’s and how it affects a patient’s life could mean a lot for someone dealing with this disease.
Ben’s Friends is a network of safe and supportive online communities for individuals affected by a rare disease or chronic condition. Our Life with Crohn’s and Colitis Support Group aims to provide online support to people affected by Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. If you think you would benefit from our community, we invite you to sign up here.