|A hockey star's secret||Dec. 3, 2012|
|Written by: Marilyn Linton, QMI Agency|
|Shayne Corson is one of 233,000 Canadians living with IBD|
Hockey wasn’t the only challenge in Shayne Corson’s life. The former NHL star was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) at age 15.
“When I first found out, I looked upon it as just another mountain I had to climb,” he told me. “My symptoms included cramps and bad diarrhea but I felt I should keep it to myself and I hid it from my teammates.”
There were times he had to leave the ice to go to the bathroom, he recalls. “Colitis is a tough disease. It’s hard on your body. Sometimes I had no energy and everything I ate and drank just ran through my system.”
Hopefully he can help raise awareness about ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (CD), the two gastrointestinal disorders that fall under the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) umbrella. Canada has among the highest reported cases in the world. Approximately 233,000 Canadians live with IBD. One in every 150 is affected. And the incidence is rising, particularly in children under the age of 10.
IBD are conditions that affect “below the belt,” explains Dr. Kevin Glasgow, CEO of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.
“It’s about bodily functions and there are elements of social stigma and self-stigmatization involved,” Dr. Glasgow says. “CD is gum to bum – anywhere along your gastrointestinal tract could be affected. UC is confined to the large colon but both can lead to bleeding from the gut because of ulceration or perforation.”
“People are embarrassed about the symptoms which can include not only diarrhea, cramping but also rectal bleeding,” notes Dr. Jamie Gregor, president of the Ontario Association of Gastroenterology. “Some people dismiss the symptoms as minor as hemorrhoids while others so fear they may have cancer that they don’t get themselves checked out.”
One reason to get checked out (usually by having a colonoscopy) is to get the right diagnosis, Dr. Gregor says. Another is because today there are successful treatments, some which actually heal the tissue and, in the case of Corson’s UC, put it into remission.
IBD is the result of a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental triggers and microbes. The current theory is that for some reason the body has an immune reaction in which normal bacteria in the bowel are seen as the enemy. Diet may play a role in IBD, but everyone’s dietary triggers are different.
“It’s not like celiac disease where eliminating gluten helps,” says Dr. Glasgow. “There’s no one trigger, no one diet.”
In a recent report on the impact of IBD, three things stood out: IBD is not only very common in Canada, yet 10, 200 new cases are diagnosed every year; the economic costs of drug treatment and/or workdays missed are enormous and growing; and there’s a stunning lack of awareness.
“We need to take IBD out of the water closet,” says Dr. Glasgow. “Other diseases have been able to lift their veils of silence. We do a disservice by staying quiet.” IBD is more than twice as common as MS or Parkinson’s disease, about as common as epilepsy or Type 1 diabetes.
“It’s a tough disease, so meet it head on,” says Shayne Corson. “The earlier you get the right diagnosis and your doctor in place, the better your chances of finding the right treatment that can minimize your symptoms.”
“Don’t be afraid,” adds Dr. Gregor. “If you get on this early, you will feel better and prevent complications down the road.”
Kids have it too
An estimated 5,900 Canadian kids have IBD. IBD has been increasing significantly in children under the age of 10. Teens with IBD may be troubled by psychological and behavioural issues related to their illness.
No easy life
Imagine always needing to be close to a bathroom: IBD impacts quality of life through a reduction in the ability to work, social stigma, bathroom access issues, and difficulty with physical intimacy.
The University of Montreal’s Dr. John Rioux and his international team have identified 71 genetic regions that are newly associated with IBD, increasing the total number discovered to date to 163. The findings suggest IBD results from overactive immune defence systems that evolved to fight off serious bacterial infections. In IBD the body’s immune system produces an ongoing inflammatory reaction in the intestinal tract that injures the intestinal wall, leading to diarrhea and abdominal pain.
What you can expect
• IBD is a life-long chronic disease
• During a flare-up, 44% of sufferers describe pain that lasts for hours
• 44% have had an accident in public because they could not get to the bathroom in time
|MORE COLUMNS BY MARILYN LINTON, QMI AGENCY|