Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a serious condition that is on the rise in Canada, affecting more than 270,000 people. Symptoms include stomach tenderness and swelling, persistent diarrhea, weight loss, and rectal bleeding. It can also cause other symptoms, such as fatigue, mouth or rectal sores, joint pain, and eye inflammation.
But a list of symptoms doesn't tell the whole story. IBD can also have a devastating impact on a person's quality of life. Here are some of the ways IBD can affect a person's life:
Physical discomfort: The symptoms of IBD can cause significant physical discomfort and pain, which can interfere with a person's ability to do their normal activities and enjoy life.
Isolation: People with IBD may shy away from social situations because of their condition. This can be because their symptoms leave them with no energy to socialize, or because they are concerned about the possible embarrassment of unpredictable attacks of diarrhea. This can lead to loneliness and isolation from family and friends.
Depression and anxiety: People with IBD may be more prone to certain mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Interference with work: IBD is unpredictable. Symptoms may flare up around the same time as an important presentation or deadline. As well, if IBD is severe, a person may need to take time off from work to recover, and may even need to be hospitalized for treatment. This can interfere with a person's productivity and work performance.
Effects on sexuality: IBD and surgical treatment for IBD can interfere with sexuality. People with IBD may find they are too exhausted after coping with their symptoms to engage in intercourse. IBD symptoms such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fatigue can also make sexual activity more difficult. If someone has surgery for IBD, they will need to avoid sex during the recovery period after surgery. Also, if they need to wear a bag to collect wastes outside the body after surgery, this may cause self-image issues that could affect sexuality.
IBD can take a major toll on a person's quality of life. But there are treatments available to help manage this condition. If you have IBD or think you might, talk to your doctor about getting a diagnosis and finding a treatment option that is right for you.
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